President Obama praised Colorado lawmakers for passing sweeping new gun control measures, including limits on ammunition magazines and expanded background checks, during a speech in Denver on Wednesday, saying that “Colorado has shown that practical progress is possible.”
Obama called Colorado “a model” for resolving its strong tradition of gun ownership with the desire to take meaningful action to help reduce gun violence.
“This is, obviously, a state that has suffered the tragedy of two of the worst mass shootings in our history–14 years ago this month in Columbine, and just last year in Aurora,” he said. “This is also a state that treasures its Second Amendment rights–a state of proud hunters and sportsmen, with a strong tradition of gun ownership that’s handed down from generation to generation with reverence and respect.”
“I’m here because I believe there doesn’t have to be a conflict between reconciling these realities.”
He reminded the crowd that since the Newtown shooting, more than a hundred times as many lives have been lost to bullets as were lost in that shooting, adding that “every day we wait to do something about it, even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”
The president discussed the importance of having a reasonable debate, free from the fears that have been “ginned up” by some on the right. “Surely we can have a debate that’s not based on the notion somehow that your elected representatives are trying to do something to you other than potential prevent another group of families from grieving the way the families of Aurora or Newtown or Columbine have grieved.”
“We’re not proposing a gun registration system, we’re proposing background checks for criminals,” he said, urging any skeptical gun owners to “look at the actual legislation” and reiterating that provisions like universal background checks have wide support, even among gun owners.
He also talked about the gun owners who’ve reached out to him. ”I have stacks of letters in my office from proud gun owners, whether they’re for sport or protection or collection, who tell me how deeply they cherish their rights, don’t want their rights infringed upon, but they still want us to do something to stop the epidemic of gun violence.”
“There’s no reason we can’t do this unless politics is getting in the way.”
He insisted the power needed for change rests with everyday Americans to help push politicians in Congress. “If we’re really gonna tackle this problem seriously, then we’ve got to get Congress to take the next step, and as soon as next week they will be voting,” he said. ”The only way this time will be different is if the America people demand it must be different.”
The president will speak in Connecticut next Monday, not far from the site of the Newtown school shooting, where he’ll continue to call on Americans to join him in urging Congress to pass “common sense legislation” to reduce gun violence.