Gun control was a central pillar in President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, with the commander-in-chief emotionally urging Congress to act in light of the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different,” Obama said to applause from the audience.
“Overwhelming majorities of Americans–Americans who believe in the Second Amendment–have come together around commonsense reform like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,” he added, noting that senators on both sides of the aisle are working on laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.
Since the death of 20 children in the Connecticut massacre, President Obama has called for a slew of initiatives. That includes mandating universal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun, bans on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines. Powerful gun lobby groups, like the National Rifle Association, however, are arguing that more guns–not fewer–is the answer to the violence.
The audience itself was a symbol of the gun debate that’s emerging on Capitol Hill. Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who miraculously survived an assassination attempt in 2011, was in attendance. First Lady Michelle Obama sat with the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teen fatally shot just days after she performed at Obama’s inauguration. And nearly two dozen members in the House invited people affected by gun violence, many of whom wore green ribbons to remember victims.
On the other side of the spectrum was rocker-and-gun-rights zealot Ted Nugent, who was also in attendance. Nugent was the guest of Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman, who recently called for Obama’s impeachment over his proposed gun control legislation.
In his State of the Union address, Obama declared that each of the gun-limit proposals he’s outlined deserves a vote in Congress. The litany was the emotional high point of the speech. “If you want to vote no, that’s your choice,” he told the chamber. “But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”
Obama conjured the memory of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, recalling her love for Fig Newtons and lipgloss. “Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote,” said the president.
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” he continued. “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.”