NEW ORLEANS — In one of his most expansive responses yet to gun crime, President Barack Obama on Wednesday embraced some degree of control on the sale of weapons but said he would also seek a national consensus on combating violence.
He said responsibility for curtailing bloodshed also rests with parents, neighbors and teachers to ensure that young people "do not have that void inside them."
Speaking just six days after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead, Obama pledged to work with lawmakers of both parties to help stop violence — not only the sudden massacres that have bedeviled the nation but also the steady drip of urban crime that has cost many young lives.
"We should leave no stone unturned and recognize that we have no greater mission than keeping our young people safe," Obama said in a speech to the National Urban League.
Obama called for stepped-up background checks for people who want to purchase guns and restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons. He says those steps "shouldn't be controversial; they should be common sense."
But he also added: "We must also understand that when a child opens fire on other children, there's a hole in his heart that no government can fill."
Obama's speech represented a bookend to a trip that began in Colorado on Saturday when he visited survivors of the theater massacre.
For Obama, the address to the National Urban League was a necessary overture to a voting bloc that overwhelmingly backs him but which has sustained much of the brunt of the economic downturn.
In his speech, Obama promoted his economic and health care policies, tailoring what has become a standard campaign speech to his African-American audience. He drew attention to initiatives that have helped Americans in general, and African-Americans in particular.
But, as he did during his 2008 campaign, he also stressed personal responsibility.
He said young Americans are competing against kids in Beijing and Bangalore. "You know, they're not hanging out. … They're not playing video games. They're not watching Real Housewives," he said. "I'm just saying. It's a two-way street. You've got to earn success."