WASHINGTON – President Obama delivered an impassioned, stirring plea to Congress to take up gun control legislation in his State of the Union address, illustrating that the issue has risen to the top of his concerns for a second term and that he is committed to signing legislation that he believes would reduce gun violence.
With the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, former congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and other victims of gun violence in attendance, Obama used the conclusion of his speech to tens of millions of Americans to demand Congress vote on his gun control proposals, repeating calls for universal background checks for gun buyers and limiting the purchase of high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
Full text: Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address
“In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. More than a thousand,” the president said. “One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.”
He added, “Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. They deserve at vote. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”
In calling for a votes on these issues, Obama was pushing not just Republicans, but also Democrats. A block of Democrats from conservative-leaning states are wary of banning assault weapons and other measures, but Obama argued the provisions should be at least taken up by Congress, even if they fail. And White House aides believe that universal background checks are very likely to pass, as polls show them supported by more than 80 percent of Americans.
The president’s gun control push was not just in words. Pendleton’s parents were sitting beside Michelle Obama during the speech, and many congressional Democrats brought the relatives of victims of violent crimes.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @PerryBaconJr.