HARTFORD, Conn. – With time running out on the chance to pass gun control legislation, President Barack Obama on Monday warned Congress not to use delaying tactics against tighter regulations and told families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims that he’s “determined as ever” to honor their children with tougher laws.
Obama’s gun control proposals have run into resistance on Capitol Hill, leaving their fate in doubt. Efforts by Senate Democrats to reach compromise with Republicans over expanding required federal background checks have yet to yield an agreement, and conservatives were promising to try blocking the Senate from even beginning debate on gun control legislation.
“The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my presidency,” Obama said in an emotional speech from Connecticut’s capital, an hour’s drive from Newtown. “But I’ve got to tell you, if we don’t respond to this, that’ll be a tough day for me too.”
Some of the Sandy Hook families are making an attempt to push the bill through. Obama met with them privately before his speech at the University of Hartford on Monday evening, then brought 12 family members back to Air Force One for the trip back to Washington. The relatives want to meet with senators yet to back the legislation to encourage their support in memory of their loved ones.
“Nothing’s going to be more important in making sure that the Congress moves forward this week than hearing from them,” Obama said. His eyes teared as he described Nicole Hockley, who lost her 6-year-old son, Dylan, saying how she asks him every night to come to her in her dreams so she can see him again.
Obama’s speech was interrupted repeatedly by standing ovations from the packed gymnasium. At one point, the room erupted with chants of, “We want a vote!”
“This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here who have been torn apart by gun violence,” Obama said, his voice rising with emotion as he shook his finger in the air.
Obama argued that lawmakers have an obligation to the children killed and other victims of gun violence to allow an up-or-down vote in the Senate. That would require 50 votes to pass, rather than a procedural maneuver some Republican senators are threatening to require 60 votes, potentially sinking the legislation.
Obama rode to the speech with Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who signed sweeping gun control legislation into law Thursday. But legislation in Washington faces a tougher challenge, as the nation’s memories of the shooting fade with time and the National Rifle Association wages a formidable campaign against Obama’s proposals.
Majority Leader Harry Reid brought gun control legislation to the Senate floor Monday, though actual debate did not begin. He took the step after receiving a letter from 13 conservative Republican senators saying they would use delaying tactics to try preventing lawmakers from beginning to consider the measure. Such a move takes 60 votes to overcome, a difficult hurdle in the 100-member chamber.