In a twist of irony, President Obama revealed in an exclusive BBC interview just hours before a gunman opened fire in a Louisiana movie theater that the greatest frustration of his presidency are U.S. gun laws.
Noting that gun violence has killed more Americans than terrorism since the tragic September 11, 2001 attack, Obama called out the lack of “common-sense gun safety laws,” in America. The comments came before the Louisiana gunman — identified as John R. Houser — killed two women, injured nine, and killed himself Thursday night. And just a week ago, the FBI revealed that Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old accused of killing nine at a historic Black church in Charleston, S.C., obtained the gun thought to be used in the attack through a background check loophole.
“That is an area where …I feel that I’ve been most frustrated and most stymied,” he said. “It is the fact that the United States of America is the one advanced nation on earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense, gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings.”
“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number been killed by gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands. And for us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing. But it is not something that I intend to stop working on in the remaining 18 months.”
Obama has been extremely vocal about gun control reform during his presidency, much more so after gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. During a press conference after the 2013 shooting, Obama tearfully addressed the nation, vowing to create a gun task force to deal with the lax laws that have allowed many gunmen involved in mass shootings to obtain weapons. His efforts, NBC notes, were combated by both the National Rifle Association and forces in Congress.
The president just recently addressed gun laws again after the Charleston AME massacre, setting off a debate on whether the shooting was motivated by race or gun control in America. Roof reportedly told police he shot the nine parishioners because they were Black.
During his BBC interview, Obama made sure to address the current climate of race in the nation.
“It’s becoming more tolerant as a consequence,” he said. “There’s more interactions between groups. There are going be tensions that arise. But if you look at my daughters’ generation, they have an attitude about race that’s entirely different than even my generation.”
“Recent concerns around policing and mass incarcerations are legitimate and deserve intense attention,” he added. “And I feel that we are moving the ball forward on those issues.”