A fiery President Barack Obama pushed for new gun safety regulations during his first visit to Connecticut since the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Speaking to an audience at the University of Hartford that included the families of several victims of the shooting, Obama reiterated that the debate over gun reform “shouldn’t be about politics,” and blasted the Republicans who plan to use a filibuster to block gun reform legislation from reaching the floor of the Senate.
“Some back in Washington are already floating the idea that they might use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms,” the president said as chants of “we want a vote” filled the arena. “Think about that. They’re not just saying they’ll vote ‘no’ on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they won’t allow any votes on them at all. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.”
“I’ve also heard some in the press suggest that what happens to gun violence legislation in Congress this week will be a political victory or defeat for me,” Obama continued. “You know what? This isn’t about me. And it shouldn’t be about politics. This is about doing the right thing for families like yours that have been torn apart by gun violence, and families going forward.”
The president’s speech, the 13th that he’s given on gun violence since the Newtown shooting, came at a critical time in the effort to strengthen gun laws. A renewed assault weapons ban is no longer a serious part of the legislative agenda, and the ongoing negotiations between senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) may be the last chance for Congress to make a serious push for expanded background checks.
“When was the last time 90 percent of Americans agreed on anything?” Obama asked, referencing recent polling on the overwhelming public support for the reform. “You’d think in the wake of a tragedy this wouldn’t be a heavy lift.”
“The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my presidency,” Obama said near the end of his remarks. “But I’ve got to tell you, if we don’t respond to this, that’ll be a tough day for me too.”
President Obama’s full speech can be viewed here.
AP Photo/Susan Walsh