It took more than 50 minutes for President Barack Obama to mention gun violence in his State of the Union address Tuesday, but when he did the crowd of supporters and dozens of victims rose to their feet to fill the U.S. House chamber with applause.
“It has been two months since Newtown,” Obama said. “I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different.”
“Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the Second Amendment — have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,” Obama said as the crowd applauded. “Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals. Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because these police chiefs, they’re tired of seeing their guys and gals being outgunned.”
“Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress,” he conceded.
Obama went on to mention Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old Chicago girl who was shot in a park a mile from the Obama’s home. Pendleton’s parents, Nate and Cleo, were in the audience Tuesday.
“They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote,” Obama said as the crowd applauded. “Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence — they deserve a simple vote.”
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head while holding a constituent event outside a supermarket in Tucson, was one of about two dozen victims of gun violence in the audience Tuesday.
Sitting near First Lady Michelle Obama was Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig, who hid her students in a small bathroom and helped them stay quiet during the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 first graders and six educators.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro invited as her guest Carlos Soto, the 15-year-old brother of Victoria Soto, the first grade teacher who was shot trying to save her students.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes invited Curtrina Murphy of Bridgeport to be his guest. Last summer, Murphy’s daughter, who was three years old at the time, was hit in the crossfire of a gun-fight as she walked down the street. Murphy’s daughter survived the incident and has fully recovered from her wounds.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal invited Newtown First Selectwoman Pat Llodra as his guest and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy brought Newtown Police Detectives Jason Frank and Dan McAnaspie, two of several first responders who rushed to Sandy Hook Elementary School on the day of the tragedy.
U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, whose district includes Newtown, invited Natalie Hammond, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who was shot and survived the incident.
U.S. Rep. John Larson brought as his guest Ross Hollander, president of Hartford Distributors in Manchester. On Aug. 3, 2010, eight employees of Hartford Distributors were shot and killed by a disgruntled employee.
The effort to give tickets to a victims of gun violence was spearheaded by U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin of Rhode Island. It’s just one of many ways victims of gun violence are making their voices heard this week. Hundreds of survivors of gun violence are in Washington as part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ Demand A Plan campaign for “common-sense gun law reforms.” And on Thursday, hundreds are expected to turn out for a rally against gun violence at the state Capitol in Hartford.
Despite saying that “this time is different,” Obama also conceded that he may not have the votes to get something passed when he called on Congress to vote on the issue regardless of the outcome.
“Tonight, the president issued a spurring and stirring call to action against gun violence in America, to prevent another tragedy like the one that befell Newtown,” Blumenthal said. “I am unwavering in my commitment to fight for a ban on assault weapons and large-capacity clips, to crack down on illegal gun trafficking, and for background checks on gun and ammunition sales.”
But there are Democrats in the Senate, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, who aren’t necessarily in lock-step with the president when it comes to gun control.
Reid has a “B” rating from the National Rifle Association. According to the website On The Issues, the “B” rating means Reid is “a generally pro-gun candidate; may have opposed some pro-gun reform in the past.”
The Republican-controlled House has vowed not to take up any controversial legislation until it passes the U.S. Senate first.