Obama urges Congress to pass ‘common sense’ gun control legislation speaking at University of Hartford

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Connecticut - posted Tue., Apr. 9, 2013
President Barack Obama University of Hartford
President Barack Obama brought his push for national gun control legislation to Connecticut on April 8 during a visit to the University of Hartford, where he was introduced by the parents of a young victim of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Photo by Andrew J. Concatelli.

Following the recent passage of stricter gun control legislation in Connecticut, President Barack Obama came to the University of Hartford on Monday, April 8, to appeal for similar gun control measures on a national level. Hundreds gathered in the Chase Family Arena to hear him speak, including students and staff, members of the media and families personally touched by the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Obama called for a three-pronged solution: universal background checks, tougher penalties for gun trafficking, and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

“We have to tell Congress it’s time to require a background check for anyone who wants to buy a gun, so that people who are dangerous to themselves and others cannot get their hands on a gun,” the president said amidst loud cheers. “We have to tell Congress it’s time to crack down on gun trafficking so that folks will think twice before buying a gun as part of a scheme to arm someone who won’t pass a background check… We have to tell Congress it’s time to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines, to make it harder for a gunman to fire 154 bullets into his victims in less than five minutes.”

He also called for more attention on strengthening school safety and treating those with mental illness.

The president’s remarks carried the momentum of the passage of Bill 1160 into law in Connecticut by Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday, April 4. The law is among the strictest gun control legislation in the country, and has provided gun-control advocates a basis for national legislation.

“There was one question on the minds of many of us late in the evening of December 14, and that was how do we make sure that something like this never happens again,” Malloy told the audience before the president's remarks. “The bill we signed into law in Connecticut last week is not a cure-all, but we do know it will be of assistance in preventing future death in the state of Connecticut, and we do know it marks a turning point in the debate on a national basis.”

The day also marked the reconvening of the U.S. Senate, which began a new session after a two-week Easter break. Speaking to press before the president’s appearance, Senators Christopher Murphy (D) and Richard Blumenthal (D) talked about legislation that they hope to pass in Congress, which at the time was not yet finalized.

“There is still work to be done,” said Blumenthal. “I’m encouraged, but there are still some tough issues to be resolved.” The challenge they face is negotiating a bill that can receive bipartisan support. However, Blumenthal is cautious on where compromises are to be made. “The bottom line is we don’t want an agreement that is still with more loopholes. We want an agreement that is effective and enforceable,” he said.

Murphy agreed, saying that any compromise must be able to advance the cause of implementing universal background checks and taking military-style weapons off the streets. “The gun lobby was celebrating a little bit last week, and I think their celebration was premature,” said Murphy. “I think with Connecticut’s passage of landmark legislation last week, with new Republicans joining negotiations today, along with the president’s visit, we have the opportunity to bring momentum back on the side of Newtown families and those among us who want to see a strong bill.”

“We’re going to be taking to Washington tonight some of the most effective advocates for this cause – who are the families,” said Blumenthal. “Their faces and their voices will be in Washington this week… we’re going to be proud to ride down with them with the president.”

The president was introduced by Nicole Hockley, the mother of a child, Dylan, who was murdered at Sandy Hook. Standing with her husband, Ian, she told the audience that the task before them this week is to get the Senate to pass common-sense gun control laws to protect our community.

“I stand before you now asking you to stand with me, with all the families – those in Sandy Hook, and those of all other towns and cities in our great nation – who have lost loved ones to gun violence,” she said.

Taking the podium, Obama thanked Nicole and Ian, and lauded the Connecticut legislators who passed the gun control legislation, as well as Malloy, who signed it into law. Obama applauded the “common-sense laws” that New York, Colorado and Maryland have passed in the wake of Newtown, but it is Connecticut that received his focus in his push for national gun control legislation.

“Connecticut has shown the way,” Obama said. “And now is the time for Congress to do the same.”

Following Dec. 14, Obama called for executive actions to reduce gun violence. “In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to give those proposals a vote,” he said. “And that moment is now.”

With proponents of Bill 1160 characterizing its passage as a bipartisan effort, Obama too called for both Democrats and Republicans to support national legislation. He said that 90 percent of Americans agree on universal background checks, as well as 80 percent of gun owners and 70 percent of households affiliated with the National Rifle Association. “If our democracy is working the way it’s supposed to, and 90 percent of the American people agree on something, in the wake of a tragedy you’d think this would not be a heavy lift,” he said. Obama cited politics as the problem, prompting boos from the crowd and a thunderous chant of “We want a vote.”

Obama appealed to those gathered to voice their support of “common-sense laws” to Congress and stand up on behalf of the families of Newtown, Aurora, Tucson and Virginia Tech. “If you believe in the right to bears arms, like I do, but think we should prevent an irresponsible few from inflicting harm - stand up,” he said. “And if we do, if we come together and raise our voices together and demand this change together, I’m convinced cooperation and common sense will prevail. We will find sensible, intelligent ways to make this country stronger and safer for our children.”

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