WEST HARTFORD, Conn. – With his proposed gun regulations in serious jeopardy, President Obama delivered an impassioned and urgent plea Monday evening for swift action, telling a state still shaken by the Newtown school massacre, Weve got to expect more from Congress.
The call for stricter gun laws – his most forceful yet – came in a campaign-style event in front of several thousand people packed into the University of Hartfords basketball arena. Obama recalled Decembers slaughter of 20 small children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School as the toughest day of his presidency. If we dont respond to this, he added, that will be a tough day for me, too.
Weve got to expect more from ourselves, he continued. And weve got to expect more from Congress. Weve got to believe that, you know, well, every once in a while we set politics aside and we just do whats right.
Obama, who met before his speech with parents of slain children, also vowed not to forget the Connecticut slayings. He wore a green bracelet, while many in the audience wore green ribbons, honoring the schools colors.
The entreaty came as one of the nations most committed gun-control proponents, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also prepared to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers with a new plan to grade them based on their votes on gun issues.
The Bloomberg-financed Mayors Against Illegal Guns will launch a scoring system Tuesday to award lawmakers grades of A through F, much like the National Rifle Associations use of rankings deployed against politicians at election time, according to details of the plan obtained by the Washington Post.
The developments come at the start of a potentially decisive week for Obamas agenda to toughen the nations gun laws, with the Senate beginning to debate the proposals.
The president ticked through each of them during his Hartford speech, including universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. He also upbraided Senate Republicans for threatening to block a vote on the proposals. All of them are common sense, Obama said. All of them deserve a vote.
The crowd cheered so loudly it was difficult at times to hear the presidents remarks. At one point, people interrupted Obama with chants of We want a vote!
If our democracys working the way its supposed to and 90 percent of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy youd think this would not be a heavy lift, Obama said.
And yet some folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms.
A growing coalition of Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has warned it would filibuster gun legislation, meaning any bill would require a plurality of 60 votes to pass, rather than a simple majority.
Obama, Bloomberg and other gun-control proponents are trying anew this week to translate popular support for proposals such as background checks for all gun buyers into legislative momentum on Capitol Hill.