Obama Makes Plea for Gun Control at Hollywood Fundraisers

Barack Obama Rose Garden H 2015
AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Barack Obama Rose Garden H 2015

"It is easier to buy a gun than buy a book," Obama told a well-monied Westside crowd gathered at one of his three Democratic fundraisers in Los Angeles on Saturday.

A day after meeting with families of the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, President Barack Obama continued his push for gun control in remarks at three Democratic fundraisers in L.A.

"Yesterday, I went to Oregon to visit with the families of the people who had been shot at this community college," Obama told a crowd of about 200 people gathered at a DNC concert fundraiser with Jamie Foxx in Pacific Palisades on Saturday. The president noted that on that same day, there were two more shootings, in Arizona and Texas, according to a pool report.

"Some of these families were trying to process their 18-year-old child, who they had invested their lives in," being gone, Obama said. "That first week of college, they were taken."

He said that "there were some folks who were protesting about their Second Amendment rights as they understood them." But Obama described the reaction in the town as "overwhelmingly" one of "shock and grief."

"I came away feeling just as strongly as I did the day it happened. … This is a choice we make," Obama said. "This is not inevitable."

"It’s not just mass shootings," the president said. "It is the daily shootings that take place in cities across America. It is easier to buy a gun than buy a book," Obama said, referring to the lack of bookstores in low-income areas.

According to the pool report, the president "noted that the politics around the gun issue and the country's elected officials in Congress would have to change for there to be real progress on the gun issue."

"We have a different vision of what America can look like," Obama said. "What’s true on gun violence is true on every issue that matters to you," he said in closing.

The president's comments echoed remarks he made earlier at a roundtable discussion hosted by director J.J. Abrams for 20 deep-pocketed donors.  That event, which raised an estimated $750,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was the first of three on the Westside. (In a pool report from Abrams' house, the White House press corps traveling with the president noted that they were confined to the director's attic music room.)

By 3 p.m., Obama was on his way to the concert fundraiser featuring Foxx at the nearby home of Democratic donors Robin and Ed Berman, where a tent was set up on the rolling lawn. After that event, Obama headed to the Bel Air home of designer Michael Smith, whose longtime partner, former HBO exec James Costos, is currently serving as U.S. ambassador to Spain. Tickets to the Smith fundraiser ranged from $10,000 to $33,400 per person.

At the Smith manse, Obama gave a stripped-down version of his stump speech, according to a pool report.

"There’s almost no measure by which we’re not better off now than when I came into office," he said.

But problems remain, most prominently the failure of wages and income to grow for ordinary Americans, making people feel anxious about their finances, he said.

"And when people are anxious economically, the politics of fear oftentimes can override the politics of hope," he said.

That anxiety can express itself in anti-immigration rhetoric and "in cheap jingoism and militarism and nationalism that’s not grounded in our national security interests. And it’s a dangerous path."

According to the pool report, Obama complimented Democrats for making "courageous votes." He said he had sometimes been faulted by members of his own party for not being partisan enough.

"But I will tell you at this moment in history, the choices are stark," Obama said, adding that he believes the Republicans have "gone off the deep end."

"What you’re witnessing in the House fight right now is that even deeply conservative folks are not considered ideologically pure enough, and we would rather burn the House down than admit the possibility of democratic process that requires compromise," he said.

Obama added: "I feel as much urgency about this upcoming election as I’ve felt about any election, and I am not on the ballot. I definitely need a Democratic successor because the alternatives we’ve got are not what I had in mind."