The United States needs to do some "soul searching," the president says.
"We're the only developed country on Earth where this happens. And it happens now once a week," he said during a question-and-answer session on Tumblr at the White House.
His biggest frustration, Obama said, is that "the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage."
The president began pushing for tougher gun laws after the tragedy at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children dead. Since then, there have been at least 74 school shootings, 37 of which have occurred in 2014.
"The country has to do some soul searching about this," Obama said. "This is becoming the norm and we take it for granted in ways that as a parent are terrifying to me."
The president cited shortcomings in the nation's mental health care system for the high number of shootings compared to other nations. But, he added, while "the United States doesn't have a monopoly on crazy people," mass shootings are "exponentially higher than any place else" and the difference is that "these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses."
He also said that he supports Second Amendment rights but believes that gun laws need to be tightened.
"I respect gun rights but the idea that, for example, we couldn't get a background check bill in to make sure that if you're going to buy a weapon you have to actually go through a rigorous process so that we know who you are, so you can't just walk up to the store and buy a semi-automatic weapon? It makes no sense," he said. "And I don't know if anybody saw the brief press conference from the father of the young man who had been killed in Santa Barbara, and as a father myself I cannot understand the pain he must be going through and just the primal scream that he gave out. Why aren't we doing something about this?"
Congress will not act, Obama added, unless the country demands it.
"If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change," he said. "Most members of Congress – I have to say to some degree this is bipartisan – are terrified of the NRA."
The United States, the president said, "has to do some soul searching about" gun violence.
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)