UK & World News

  • 23 September 2013, 9:09

Navy Yard Service: Obama Urges Gun Law Change

President Barack Obama has paid tribute to the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting, urging his nation not to give up on changing gun laws.

Mr Obama says no other advanced nation endures the kind of gun violence seen in the US, and lamented what he called the "creeping resignation" in his country on the issue.

"I'm here today to say there's nothing routine about this tragedy. There's nothing routine about your loss," Mr Obama said at a service after the latest mass shooting.

"There is nothing inevitable about it -  it comes about because of decisions we make or fail to make."

The US president said when such senseless deaths strike in America, "it ought to be a shock to all of us, it ought to obsess us. It ought to lead to some sort of transformation".

Yet, he said, "Nothing happens." 

"Sometimes I fear there is a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal."

"We cannot accept this. As Americans bound in grief and love, we must insist here today there is nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work."

Twelve people were killed in last Monday's shooting.

The gunman, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis, was a former US Navy reservist working as an information technology contractor.

He was killed in a gun battle with police.

There were signs that Alexis had untreated mental health issues.

Rhode Island police had warned the Navy in August that Alexis had reported "hearing voices" and said he believed people were following him and "sending vibrations into his body".

At a service at the Marine Barracks, before a crowd of about 4,000 mourners, Mr Obama read the names of the victims and spoke of them.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama met privately with the families before the service.

"Our tears are not enough. Our words and our prayers are not enough," Mr Obama said.

"If we really want to honour these 12 men and women, if we really want to be a country where we can go to work and go to school and walk our streets free from senseless violence without so many lives being stolen by a bullet from a gun, then we're going to have to change."

"By now, though, it should be clear that the change we need will not come from Washington, even when tragedy strikes Washington.

"Change will come the only way it ever has come, and that's from the American people."

Mr Obama proposed new gun laws early this year after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.

But Congress rejected his proposals to restrict sales of certain types of guns and require background checks for more types of gun sales.

The measures were fought by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups, which said the proposals would infringe on Americans' constitutional rights.