Obama: Navy Yard shooting must inspire gun law change

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service after visiting families of victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks in Washington September 22, 2013. President Barack Obama used a memorial service for the victims
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service after visiting families of victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks in Washington September 22, 2013. President Barack Obama used a memorial service for the victims of America's latest mass shooting on Sunday to make another impassioned appeal to reform gun ownership laws. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - President Barack Obama used a memorial service for the victims of America's latest mass shooting on Sunday to make another impassioned appeal to reform gun ownership laws.

"No other advanced nation endures this kind of violence. None," he declared, at a ceremony in the Washington Navy Yard, where a contractor killed 12 people in a gun rampage on Monday.

There have been several mass shootings in the United States in recent months, and after each, Mr Obama has pushed the case for tighter controls on gun ownership, to no avail.

Monday's incident, in which a troubled former serviceman shot randomly at workers at the naval headquarters, brought carnage within blocks of the US Capitol, where Congress sits.

Lawmakers have thwarted attempts by Mr Obama and his supporters to strengthen background checks for gun permits, citing the right to bear arms enshrined in the US constitution.

But Mr Obama, while admitting that the message was far from new, said the latest bloodshed should be a wake-up call for Americans.

"Here in America, the murder rate is three times what it is in other developed nations," he said.

"The murder rate with guns is 10 times what it is in other developed nations. There is nothing inevitable about it.

"The main difference that sets our nation apart, what makes us so susceptible to so many mass shootings is we don't do enough, we don't take the basic common sense actions to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and dangerous people," the president added.

"What is different in America is that it is easy to get your hands on a gun." Mr Obama admitted that it looked unlikely that change would come from Washington, but called on American voters to insist on reform.

Last December, after 20 children and six adults were killed in a school rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr Obama called for tougher enhanced background checks on gun buyers and a ban on assault-style rifles.

But the measures foundered in Congress, partly due to a fierce lobbying campaign by pro-gun groups and opposition from some of his fellow Democrats from conservative states.

This month, figures from the FBI said 14,827 people were murdered last year in the United States.

This was well down from the 24,526 killed in 1993, when the country's population was smaller, but the rate - 4.7 murders per 100,000 people - was significantly higher than those in other wealthy nations.

The comparable rate is 0.4 in Japan, 0.8 in Germany, 1.0 in Australia, 1.1 in France and 1.2 in Britain, according the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The United States is one of the world's most heavily-armed nations, with between a third and half of all Americans owning guns.