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Obama Restates His Frustration Over Gun Control


The mass shooting in Oregon prompted this message from President Obama - the politics have to change. In other words, he argues, more innocent Americans will die from gun violence unless voters decide to force their representatives in Washington to take action.


BARACK OBAMA: And you just have to, for a while, be a single-issue voter 'cause that's what is happening on the other side. And that's going to take some time. I mean, the NRA has had a good start.

SIEGEL: The president addressed the issue at length today during a news conference at the White House that was held to announce the resignation of his education secretary, Arne Duncan. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith was there. And she joins us now. Tam, what did the president say about guns? Is he going to take any specific actions, for example?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: He says that he has asked his team to scour the law and try to opportunities for him to take executive action. But he feels like really at this point it's all about Congress. And of course he's been saying that for some time now, trying to put pressure on Congress. And there are no signs that Congress is planning to move on that. He did say that voters need to tell their representatives that they care about it, and President Obama also said that he's going to continue making sure that the American public knows that he cares about it.


OBAMA: And so the main thing I'm going to do is I'm going to talk about this on a regular basis, and I will politicize it because our inaction is a political decision that we are making.

KEITH: And of course he has been talking about it. There have been a number of mass shootings while he’s been president, and he's given very similar remarks again and again and again.

SIEGEL: Yeah, and when he spoke about the shootings in Roseburg yesterday, you could see that he was angry. His demeanor sounds a lot more relaxed from what we just heard today.

KEITH: I think part of that is simply it’s been a day, which obviously isn't a very long time. But also, you have to understand that this was not a normal press conference kind of setting. He had just announced that Arne Duncan was leaving and announced his replacement. And Arne Duncan's children were sitting right there in the front row, and on more than one occasion the president sort of nodded to the children so I think that having kids in the front row sort of changes anyone’s demeanor.

SIEGEL: Yeah. The president also talked about the idea of negotiating with Republicans over a long-term budget deal. What did he have to say about that today?

KEITH: The news that he made here is he says he will not sign another continuing resolution. This would be the short-term budget fix – sort of the kick-the-can-down-the-road fix. He just signed one of those that will keep the government funded and operating through December. He said he’s not doing it again. He wants a budget deal. He also said that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. The debt limit, according to the treasury secretary, will be hit within five weeks.

SIEGEL: And another question that reporters raised in this news conference was about Russian airstrikes in Syria which came not long after he met with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in New York. What did the president have to say about that?

KEITH: He said that Vladimir Putin is making a mistake. Here's some tape.


OBAMA: Mr. Putin had to go into Syria, not out of strength, but out of weakness because his client, Mr. Assad, was crumbling, and it was insufficient for him simply to send them arms and money.

KEITH: On a couple of occasions the president was asked - Russia has taken airstrikes that have hit the moderate Syrian rebels that the U.S. is working with and are part of the U.S. strategy in Syria. The president was asked, do you have a responsibility to protect them or defend them? He didn’t answer that question specifically, but he did say that he has no intention of getting in a proxy war with Russia in Syria.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Tamara Keith at the White House. Tam, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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