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Barack Obama says gun ownership has become a growing "ideological" and "partisan" issue

Obama on the view of gun ownership in America
Obama says gun ownership has become an "ideological" and "partisan" issue in America 01:03

Former President Barack Obama is urging Americans to have a dialogue about gun violence as the U.S. recently surpassed 200 mass shootings so far this year, according to CBS News data.

Obama discussed the challenges of reducing gun violence and how gun ownership has become an "ideological" and "partisan" issue during an exclusive sit-down interview with "CBS Mornings" co-host Nate Burleson. The full interview will air on Tuesday, May 16. 

"I think somehow — and there are a lot of historical reasons for this — gun ownership in this country became an ideological issue, and a partisan issue, in ways that it shouldn't be," Obama told Burleson. "It has become sort of a proxy for arguments about our culture wars, you know? Urban versus rural. Race is always an element in these issues. Issues of class and education, and so forth."

The comments come as lawmakers face renewed calls for further gun legislation from family members of shooting victims, activists and constituents. But any action would face staunch resistance in an increasingly divided Congress. "We have to recognize that we can ban these weapons, but there's millions already out there," Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy told "CBS Mornings" last week. "And somebody who decides to obtain one illegally, probably can."

Last week, eight people were killed in a shooting rampage at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas. Days later, a Texas House committee failed to meet a key deadline to receive a floor vote on a bill that would raise the legal age to buy an assault-style weapon from 18 to 21.

The Obama Foundation on Wednesday announced an initiative — titled My Brother's Keeper, or MBK — to help young men of color and their communities "remain safe from violent crime." The program will provide coaching, educational opportunities, financial resources and more.

As part of the MBK Model Communities initiative, the MBK Alliance has identified four MBK communities that have instituted programming and initiatives that have prompted positive shifts in areas like education and reducing violence. These MBK Model Communities, selected from a network of hundreds that have an evidence-based track record of success in positively shifting outcomes for boys and young men of color, are: Newark, New Jersey; Omaha, Nebraska; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Yonkers, New York.

During his presidency, Obama called for stricter gun laws and urged Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban following the 2016 Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, which killed 49 people and wounded dozens more.

"Instead of just taking a very practical approach, like we do, let's say, for example, with car safety, where we say, 'All right, we got a bunch of accidents. Let's have seat belts. And let's make cars safer. And let's engineer our roads so that we prevent them,'" Obama observed, "Instead of thinking about it in a very pragmatic way, we end up really arguing about identity, and emotion, and all kinds of stuff that does not have to do with keeping our children safe."

According to a recent CBS News poll, three in four Americans say mass shootings are something we could "prevent and stop if we really tried," and not something we have to "accept as part of a free society." And about half of Americans say guns make the country "dangerous." In 2021, nearly 49,000 people died from gun-related injuries in the U.S., making it one of the deadliest years on record, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

More of Nate Burleson's interview with former President Barack Obama will air on "CBS Mornings" on Tuesday, May 16.

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