Obama wants gun violence measures passed in 2013
by Jim Kuhnhenn
WASHINGTON - Recalling the shooting rampage that killed 20 first graders as the worst day of his presidency, President Barack Obama pledged to put his "full weight" behind legislation aimed at preventing gun violence.
Obama voiced skepticism about the National Rifle Association's proposal to put armed guards in schools following the Dec. 14 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The president made his comments Saturday in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Instead, the president vowed to rally the American people around an agenda to limit gun violence, adding that he still supports increased background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity bullet magazines. He left no doubt it will be one of his top priorities next year.
"It is not enough for us to say, `This is too hard so we're not going to try,"' Obama said.
"I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognize that we can't have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids," he added. "And, yes, it's going to be hard."
The president added that he's ready to meet with Republicans and Democrats, anyone with a stake in the issue.
The schoolhouse shootings, coming as families prepared for the holidays, have elevated the issue of gun violence to the forefront of public attention. Six adult staff members were also killed at the elementary school. Shooter Adam Lanza committed suicide, apparently as police closed in. Earlier, he had killed his mother at the home they shared.
The tragedy immediately prompted calls for greater gun controls. But the NRA is strongly resisting those efforts, arguing instead that schools should have armed guards for protection. Some gun enthusiasts have rushed to buy semiautomatic rifles of the type used by Lanza, fearing sales may soon be restricted.
Obama seemed unimpressed by the NRA proposal. "I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools," he said. "And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem."
The president said he intends to press the issue with the public.
"The question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away," Obama said. "It certainly won't feel like that to me. This is something that - you know, that was the worst day of my presidency. And it's not something that I want to see repeated."
Separately, a member of the president's cabinet said Sunday that rural America may be ready to join a national conversation about gun control. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the debate has to start with respect for the Second Amendment right to bear arms and recognition that hunting is a way of life for millions of Americans.
But Vilsack said Newtown has changed the way people see the issue. "I really believe that this is a different circumstance and a different situation," Vilsack said on CNN.
Vilsack said he thinks it's possible for Americans to come together. "It's potentially a unifying conversation," he said. "The problem is that these conversations are always couched in the terms of dividing us. This could be a unifying conversation, and Lord knows we need to be unified."
Besides passing gun violence legislation, Obama also listed deficit reduction and immigration as top priorities for 2013. A big deficit reduction deal with Republicans proved elusive this month, and Obama is now hoping Senate Democratic and Republican leaders salvage a scaled-back plan that avoids tax increases for virtually all Americans.
In addition, he issued a defense of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has been mentioned as one of the leading candidates to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary.
Hagel supported the 2002 resolution approving U.S. military action in Iraq, but later became a critic of the war. He has been denounced by some conservatives for not being a strong enough ally of Israel. Also, many liberals and gay activists have banded against him for comments he made in 1998 about an openly gay nominee for an ambassadorship.
Obama, who briefly served with Hagel in the Senate, stressed that he had yet to make a decision but called Hagel a "patriot."
Hagel "served this country with valor in Vietnam," the president said. "And (he) is somebody who's currently serving on my intelligence advisory board and doing an outstanding job."
Obama noted that Hagel had apologized for his 14-year-old remark on gays.
From Mayor Quan's Newsletter: On the police reorganization
by Jean Quan
This has been a tough year for crime in Oakland with many challenges for the OPD -- the Oikos shooting, Occupy, resolving a plan to complete the federal goals for constitutional policing, and the increasing crim e. While we worked towards resolution on these many issues, the levels of crime are unacceptable and remain frustratingly high.
During the year we were able to get more resources from federal agents, the CHP, and soon, Alameda County Sheriffs...and we are working together with all law enforcement agencies in the region at greater levels of coordination than ever before. We have doubled police academies thanks to increasing city revenues.
In the interim, my Administration will have to do better with the resources we have , while we wait for the new officers and new programs to take effect. During this year we will be taking more officers off of desk jobs and putting them on the streets. With Council approval in January, we will hire more civilians to work in the field to free up officers to be proactive against crime and decrease response time.
This will allow us to go back to better levels of neighborhood policing and geographic accountability for the OPD . Because of the shortage of police , we are currently organized into two command areas. We are going back to 5 areas, each with captains and lieutenants and command staff accountable for crime and activities in their areas. We will start in East Oakland with two new areas and phase in. This will better support and will require the continued support of our Neighborhood Watch groups and Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils. We will expand organizing neighborhood and merchant alert groups.
Most of the coverage yesterday focused on WIlliam Bratton, the former chief of NYC and LA. Bratton is cofounder of Comstat, a geographic data planning system used to analyze and predict crime patterns; it is credited with reducing crime. We have been implementing Comstat as a tool here in Oakland and we hope he will help us fine tune its use in our strategy and tactics. Bratton is part of Strategic Policy Partnership led by Bob Wasserman, who is conducting a study we commissioned this fall to see how we can improve our police services with existing resources and build closer ties to strengthen community policing. We are already implementing some of their short-term recommendations and look forward to having Bratton's team here in the new year and their recommendations for the long term.
Meanwhile, the Mayor's Office is spending a good part of the furlough discussing and interviewing candidates for the Police Compliance Officer position that is part of our agreement with Federal Judge Henderson to complete the remaining tasks in our long-standing civil rights case. He has asked plaintiffs and the City to find mutual candidates if we can.
Reorganizing the department to reduce crime and reforming our practices to strengthen ties with our community should go hand in hand. A police department that is not trusted by the community cannot effectively stop crime. The City has been divided over the Police Department for a long time. Over the last year the OPD has made progress in changing its practices. We ALL can work on changing the relationship.
These are reminders of a wide range of things we can do:
- Our latest police academy is the most diverse ever. We will be recruiting on an on-going basis for police academies. Help us recruit Oakland residents and other urban savvy candidates.
- Report non- 911 crimes and problems, too. The police use crime stats to organize and prioritize their work. You can report anonymously. Call our toll-free tipping hotline at 855-TIPS-247 (855-847-7247 ) or Text TIP OAKLANDPD to 888777 from your cell phone.