Videos: Obama cites Aurora theater shooting in second debate with Romney

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Videos below.
Earlier this month, families of Aurora theater shooting victims urged Jim Lehrer, moderator of the presidential debate in Denver, to raise the issue of gun policy in quizzing President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Lehrer didn't do so -- but last night, in the season's second debate. the topic came up, with Obama directly addressing the massacre in the context of a possible assault-weapons ban. Get details and see videos below.

Since the July 20 attack on the Aurora Century 16, during which twelve people died and 58 were injured, Obama and Romney have mostly avoided the subject of gun control, frustrating organizations such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which ran ads in Colorado in August urging the candidates to take a stand. Here's the clip in question, which focuses on the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Tucscon but mentions Aurora:

Then, on October 1, Aurora family members beseeched Lehrer to bring up gun matters at the Denver debate in a letter on view below in its entirety. It reads in part:

To ignore the problem of gun violence in a state where two of the worst shootings in U.S. history took place -- Aurora and Columbine -- would not only be noticeable by its absence but would slight the memories of our loved ones killed.

The debate takes place at the University of Denver, less than 10 miles from Columbine and only 15 miles from the Aurora Theater where our loved ones were murdered in what was the single worst shooting massacre in American history.

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Photo by Sam Levin
Family members of Aurora theater shooting victims at an August press conference.
Lehrer didn't follow this advice in Denver. But last night, a member of the audience for debate two, at Hofstra University in New York, which utilized a town-hall format, posed the following question:
President Obama, during the Democratic National Convention in 2008, you stated you wanted to keep AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. What has your administration done or planned to do to limit the availability of assault weapons?
Obama responded by almost immediately referencing his trip to Aurora in the wake of the theater shootings to comfort grieving family members. But shortly thereafter, he made his most explicit comments since the Aurora visit about prohibiting the sale of assault weapons. Here's an excerpt from the complete transcript of this section, on view below:
My belief is that, (A), we have to enforce the laws we've already got, make sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We've done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we've got more to do when it comes to enforcement.

But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. And so what I'm trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced. But part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence.

Romney wasn't nearly as direct. He mostly dodged the issue, suggesting that gun violence can be prevented in part by preserving the two-parent family before pivoting to the controversial Fast and Furious program that was found to have provided weapons to drug gangs in Mexico -- something moderator Candy Crowley pointed out was off-topic.

Of course, mentioning an assault-weapons ban is very different from fighting for one. But the discussion of gun policy last night at least keeps the subject on the national agenda.

Continue to see videos from the debate and a transcript excerpt:

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My Voice Nation Help

I am so sick of that dumb 57 state Muslim, just shut your pie hole Barry

Zack Lewis
Zack Lewis

why are we banning assault weapons because of the theater shooting?? he used hand guns and a shotgun... wtf

Evelyn Maria
Evelyn Maria

I am tired about hearing about Libya, nothing can protect diplomats in a country with no govt. Our own country needs help like the Aurora shooting where so many people were shot, we can't even protect our own country!

Russell Lott
Russell Lott

Obama did a better job of interrupting when he didn't like what Romney was saying.

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