WHITE HOUSE — President Barack Obama on Monday returned to the northeastern state of Connecticut, where one of the nation’s worst shooting massacres took place, intensifying his push for votes in Congress on stricter federal gun control laws.
The massacre in December of 20 children and six adults in a Newtown, Connecticut school injected new urgency into Obama’s efforts to strengthen America’s gun control laws.
But momentum has been blunted by intense lobbying on Capitol Hill by the National Rifle Association. A group of Republicans has threatened to filibuster to prevent formal debate or votes in the U.S. Senate.
Obama delivered an impassioned speech that was aimed directly at those he said are threatening to use “political stunts” to block forward movement.
“They’re saying they will do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right. That is not right. We need a vote.” [Crowd chants “we want a vote,” Obama said.
Obama noted that Connecticut’s legislature recently passed tough new gun laws and recalled also that polls show 90 percent of Americans, including many gun owners, support universal background checks.
The president was introduced by Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was among Newtown shooting victims.
“Help this be the moment when real change begins. Help this be the beginning of turning tragedy into transformation for us all,” Hockley said.
Senate Democrats need to persuade enough opposition Republicans to support a proposed bill and achieve the required 60 votes to move to formal debate and a vote.
“The least Republicans owe the parents of these 20 little babies who were murdered at Sandy Hook is a thoughtful debate about whether stronger laws could have saved their little girls and boys,” said Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Republican Senator Charles Grassley is among those opposing Democratic legislation. In remarks to VOA he asserted many Americans remain highly skeptical of stronger gun legislation.
“We can’t ban any more guns, we can’t have gun registration, we can’t have the government know where the guns are because a lot of people believe that you can’t trust the government. That is what the Constitution is all about, that is what the Bill of Rights is all about, the Bill of Rights [is] meant to protect people from the government,” Grassley said.
President Obama brought 11 family members of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre back to Washington aboard Air Force One, to take part in lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
The major push by the White House continues Tuesday as Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks. Michelle Obama speaks in Chicago on Wednesday about the impact of gun violence on children.