WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama says he will work with Congress to find ways to reduce violence in America. The president spoke Wednesday, several days after 12 people were killed in a shooting rampage at a Colorado movie theater.
Gun violence in America
President Obama made some of his strongest comments yet on gun violence in a speech to the annual convention of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization representing African-Americans.
Black communities across the country have suffered disproportionately from shooting deaths, although most of the victims of last week’s outburst in Colorado were white.
The president said he will work with lawmakers from both parties to stop violence like the attack near Denver and the continuing threat of violent crime in many other cities.
Obama said that while he supports Americans’ constitutional right to own guns, he believes gun ownership should be more tightly regulated. “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47’s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals," he told the crowd. "That they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.”
The president spoke at the end of a four-day campaign trip to five states. He began the tour earlier than planned, on Sunday, with a visit to the shooting victims and their families in Colorado.
Support among African-Americans remains high for Obama, the first black U.S. president. But the president decided not to speak at the convention of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) earlier this month, citing a scheduling conflict. Vice President Joe Biden addressed the convention instead.
Some African-American leaders have expressed disappointment that the president is not doing more to specifically help black Americans.
Initiative to improve education
At the Urban League convention in New Orleans, Louisiana, Obama announced that he will sign an executive order Thursday aimed at improving education for African-American students.
“That is why tomorrow [Thursday] I am establishing the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans. So that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education, from the time they are born all through the time they get a career,” Obama stated.
The president also addressed the economy, which surveys show is the main concern of U.S. voters. He suggested that the November election will break the ongoing impasse between Democrats and Republicans, and determine the country’s direction.
“What is holding us back is a stalemate in Washington, between two fundamentally different views of which path we should take as a country," Obama explained. "And it is up to the American people to decide which direction we should go.”
Obama said the United States has all the ingredients to make the 21st century an “American Century,” like the 20th.