Obama blames National Rifle Association's tight grip on Congress for lax US gun laws

US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the shooting deaths of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the shooting deaths of nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.PHOTO: EPA

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - United States President Barack Obama blamed public apathy combined with the tight "grip" on Congress of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful US gun lobby, for blocking stricter gun laws.

Speaking during an interview recorded on Friday, just two days after the mass shooting at a black church in South Carolina, Mr Obama said he did not foresee any quick changes to gun laws. "Unfortunately, the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong," he said in a clip of the interview with "WTF with Marc Maron" posted by the New York Times.

But he failed to convince enough lawmakers to support the restrictions. "I don't foresee any legislative action being taken in this Congress. And I don't foresee any real action being taken until the American public feels a sufficient sense of urgency and they say to themselves, 'This is not normal, this is something that we can change, and we're going to change it,'" he said in the interview with Mr Maron.

The US Constitution protects the right to own guns. Mr Obama acknowledged in the interview that guns are an important part of many Americans' heritage. "It's part of how they grew up, part of the bonding they had with their dad," Mr Obama said in the interview. "The question is just: is there a way of accommodating that legitimate set of traditions with some common-sense stuff that prevents a 21-year-old who is angry about something or confused about something or is racist or is deranged from going into a gun store. That is not something that we have ever fully come to terms with."

It was not the first time Mr Obama has railed against the NRA. After the Newtown, Connecticut school massacre in 2012, a tragedy that Mr Obama has called his toughest time in office, he pushed for changes to gun laws. He proposed more background checks for gun sales and pushed to ban more types of military-style assault weapons and limit the capacity of ammunition magazines.

Mr Obama is spending the weekend golfing in the Palm Springs area with friends.

The interview marks the fifth time in two days that Mr Obama has spoken publicly about his frustrations with gun laws.

He addressed the issue in Washington before traveling to California, where he brought it up at the US Conference of Mayors, and at two fundraisers for the Democratic Party.