Obama makes emotional appeal for gun laws

Meets with Sandy Hook kin; urges action soon

At the University of Hartford, President Obama comforted Ian Hockley, whose son died in the Newtown, Conn., shootings.
At the University of Hartford, President Obama comforted Ian Hockley, whose son died in the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

HARTFORD — With time running out on the chance to pass gun control legislation, President 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 is ‘‘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 a compromise with Republicans on 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.’’

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Some of the Sandy Hook families are making an attempt to push through the bill. Obama met with them privately before his speech at the University of Hartford 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 who have 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!’’ Audience members, many wearing green ribbons in support of the victims, were stomping their feet on the bleachers and clapping their hands in unison with the chant.


‘‘This is not about me. This is not about politics. 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.

‘‘If there’s even one thing we can do to prevent a father from having to bury his child, isn’t that worth fighting for?’’ Obama asked.

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.

‘‘Some back in Washington are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms. Think about that. They’re not just saying they’ll vote no on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.

Obama rode to the speech with Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who signed sweeping gun control legislation into law Thursday with the Sandy Hook families standing behind him. But legislation in Washington faces a tougher challenge, as the nation’s memories of the shooting fade 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 on Monday, though actual debate did not begin. He took the step after receiving a letter from 13 conservative Republican senators including Senator Mike Lee of Utah, saying they would use delaying tactics to try to prevent lawmakers from beginning to consider the measure. Such a move takes 60 votes to overcome, a tough hurdle in the 100-member chamber.

The conservatives said the Democratic measure would violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, citing ‘‘history’s lesson that government cannot be in all places at all times, and history’s warning about the oppression of a government that tries.’’

Further underscoring the tough road for the Obama-backed legislation, a spokesman for Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, said Monday that the Kentucky Republican would join the filibuster if Reid tries to bring the measure to the floor.

‘‘Newtown, we want you to know that we’re here with you,’’ Obama said. ‘‘We are as determined as ever to do what must be done..’’