President Obama spoke out against gun violence, for better security on military bases and for more assistance for the mentally ill Sunday at a memorial service for the 12 people who died at the Washington Navy Yard Monday.
He noted that there had been five mass shootings during his terms as president, and that in other countries, a single mass act of violence had led to changes in the law. The mass shooting "ought to be a shock to all of us," Obama said. "It ought to lead to some sort of transformation."
"We can't accept this," he said. "We must say there's nothing normal about people being gunned down where they work."
But he said that change in gun law would likely not come from Washington, even when the latest mass shooting had occurred in the nation's capital. And he said that change would be difficult and politically dangerous.
The president also said he knew that security at military bases should be improved; he has directed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to review security at military installations nationwide. And he said that the tragedy pointed out how difficult it can be for the mentally ill to get assistance. The gunman Monday, 34-year-old Aaron Alexis of Fort Worth, had reported hearing voices.
But the president returned again and again in the short address to gun control. "Do we care enough to keep standing up for the country that we know is possible?" Obama said.
It was a message that D.C. Mayor Vince Gray foreshadowed when he spoke at the event. "Our country is drowning in a sea of guns," he said.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama visited with families of victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting on Sunday, as well as attending the memorial at the Marine Barracks Washington, the White House said.
The historic barracks are not far from the Navy Yard, where 12 people were fatally shot by Alexis, who was killed by law enforcement Monday.
The Navy Yard re-opened on Thursday for normal operations, though the building where the shooting took place remained closed.
The Marine Barracks Washington, the oldest active post in the Marine Corps and founded in 1801, supports both ceremonial and security missions in the nation's capital. It is home to the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, the Marine Band the official Marine Corps Color Guard and the Marine Corps Body Bearers. The site also contains the Home of the Commandants, which is a registered national historic landmark along with the barracks.