Three months after an elementary school massacre in Connecticut reignited a debate over the nation’s gun laws, President Obama is urging Congress to “join me in finishing the job” by taking swift action on gun-control legislation.
Obama, in his weekly radio address released on Saturday, noted the preliminary steps taken in the Senate to advance such measures as universal background checks for all gun buyers and a federal crack-down on gun trafficking. But he chastised Congress for the slow pace of progress, contrasting their indecision with the widespread popular support across the country for strengthening the background check system and other proposals.
“Today there is still genuine disagreement among well-meaning people about what steps we should take to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country,” Obama said. “But you – the American people – have spoken. You’ve made it clear that it’s time to do something.”
Before departing on his trip to Israel and Jordan, Obama spoke with lawmakers from both parties about the gun measures under consideration, according to a White House official. The president plans to continue pressuring Congress on the issue, including additional travel outside of Washington designed to mobilize public support, said the official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
Obama’s remarks come after a difficult week for his gun violence agenda. After a ban on assault weapons -- supported by Obama and authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) -- did not gain enough bipartisan traction on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) decided not to include it as part of a bill encompassing several other gun-control proposals that the Senate is scheduled to begin debating in early April. Reid’s decision severely diminished any prospect of passing a prohibition on hundreds of specific so-called assault weapons, although Feinstein still can introduce the assault weapons ban as an amendment to the full bill.
The centerpiece of Obama’s gun-control agenda is universal background checks, which has by far the most support among Americans, and appears to have more momentum in the Senate than the assault weapons ban.
In his radio address, Obama urged the Senate and the House to vote on each of the proposals he is championing – from background checks to bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines to school safety measures to the gun trafficking bill.
“These ideas shouldn’t be controversial – they’re common sense,” Obama said. “They’re supported by a majority of the American people. And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote.”