President Obama didn’t turn to the issue of gun-control until near the end of his address.
“I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different,” Obama said.
The president noted that “overwhelming majorities of Americans … who believe in the Second Amendment” are coalescing “around common-sense reform.”
He listed the leading proposals in order of public support – and the likelihood of passage in a divided Congress: Background checks for all gun purchases, making gun trafficking a federal crime for the first time and a ban on military-style assault weapons.
“Each of these proposals deserve a vote in Congress,” Obama said – but didn’t explicitly endorse any of the proposals he listed. (He also did not explicitly use the term “assault weapons ban,” which is how Democrats describe their push to limit the sale and import of assault weapons.)
“If you want to vote no, that’s your choice,” Obama told lawmakers. “But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newton, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.”
Obama’s mention of the gun-control issue marked the most emotional moment of the address, with the cheers growing as he barreled through his remarks.
House Democrats — the most liberal group in Congress — rose to their feet almost immediately and moved to the left, with House Republicans rising last and turning to look up to invited guests, at least 35 of whom were wearing ribbons marking their personal connections to gun violence.
After sitting stoically and not applauding during most of the speech, Gabrielle Giffords and mark Kelly stood when Obama began discussing gun violence.