“We’ve got to expect more from ourselves,” he continued. “And we’ve got to expect more from Congress. We’ve got to believe that, you know, well, every once in a while we set politics aside and we just do what’s right.”
Obama, who met before his speech with parents of slain children, also vowed not to forget the Connecticut slayings. He wore a green bracelet, while many in the audience wore green ribbons, honoring the school’s colors.
“Newtown, we want you to know that we’re here with you,” Obama said. “We will not walk away from the promises we’ve made. We are as determined as ever to do what must be done.”
Obama’s visit to Connecticut comes at the start of a critical week on Capitol Hill that could determine the fate of his sweeping gun-control agenda, with signs that senators may be nearing a deal to expand background-check requirements but with other proposals in serious jeopardy.
“I know that some of these proposals inspire more debate than others, but each of them has the support of the majority of the American people,” Obama said. “All of them are common sense. All of them deserve a vote.”
The crowd cheered so loudly it was difficult at times to hear the president’s remarks. At one point, people interrupted Obama with chants of, “We want a vote! We want a vote! We want a vote!”
Obama ticked through each of his proposals, including universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, highlighting polls showing nine in 10 Americans are in favor of expanding background checks.
“If our democracy's 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,” Obama said. “And yet some folks back in Washington are already floating the idea that they might use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms.”
A growing coalition of Senate Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has warned it would filibuster gun legislation, meaning any bill would require a plurality of 60 votes rather than a simple majority to pass.
Obama is ratcheting up his efforts to somehow translate popular support for his proposals into legislative momentum. His visit here comes just days after Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy (D) signed into state law one of the nation’s strictest firearms restrictions.