President Barack Obama urged allies in Congress to remember the children killed across America as they push for gun control measures. The president gave an emotional speech Thursday flanked by mothers that have lost their children to gun violence. He called the many tragedies that have burned themselves into the national consciousness justification to act now.
“As any of the families and friends who are here today can tell you, the grief doesn’t ever go away,” Obama said. “That loss, that pain sticks with you. It lingers on in places like Blacksburg and Tucson and Aurora. That anguish is still fresh in Newtown.”
Obama listed universal background checks, penalties for people who buy guns and sell them to criminals, an assault weapons ban, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, and mental health treatment as gun control measures that will come to a vote in the coming weeks with the support of the vast majority of the American people. The president argued:
“None of these ideas should be controversial,” Obama said. “Why wouldn’t we want to make it more difficult for a dangerous person to get his or her hand on a gun? Why wouldn’t we want to close the loophole that allows as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases to take place without a background check? Why wouldn’t we do that?”
He argued that 90 percent of Americans support background checks and that both 80 percent of Republicans and gun owners agree.
“How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything?,” Obama asked, drawing laughter from the audience. “It never happens.”
In his speech, the president called on Congress to show that it wants to offer more than platitudes to the victims of gun violence.
“Tears aren’t enough,” Obama said. “Expressions of sympathy aren’t enough. Speeches aren’t enough. We’ve cried enough. We’ve known enough heartbreak. What we’re proposing is not radical, it’s not taking away anybody’s gun rights. It’s something that if we are serious, we will do.”
Following the speech, Marco Rubio joined a growing list of Republicans that have vowed to filibuster any gun control legislation. He signed a letter written by Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz Friday for Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“The proposals the president is calling for Congress to pass would primarily serve to reduce the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding citizens while having little or no effect on violent crime,” Senator Lee said in response to the president’s speech. “It is deeply unfortunate that he continues to use the tragedy at Newtown as a backdrop for pushing legislation that would have done nothing to prevent that horrible crime.”
The fight for gun control has picked up over the past week. Four days ago New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he was financing a $12 million television advertising campaign. Gun control groups scheduled rallies around the country Thursday, including in Tucson and Newtown. The White House continues continues to turn to Twitter to call for action:
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 28, 2013
Last week, Reid dropped the assault weapons ban from the gun control bill he intends to bring to the Senate floor out of concern that he simply did not have the votes to pass it. It remains to be seen if either Senator Reid and President Obama can find the votes they need to pass the gun control measures they have pushed for.