President Barack Obama says his administration has received an outpouring of support for stricter gun laws following last week’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut, telling respondents to an online petition, “We hear you” as the National Rifle Association prepares to hold its first news conference since the shooting.
The president said in a video released Friday that he has been encouraged that many gun owners have said there are steps the nation can take to prevent more deadly shootings, “steps that both protect our rights and protect our kids.”
“I will do everything in my power as president to advance these efforts because if there’s even one thing we can do as a country to protect our children, we have a responsibility to try,” Obama said.
Obama was holding a moment of silence on Friday morning at the White House marking one week since the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The president has challenged the NRA to “do some self-reflection” and join a broad effort to reduce gun violence. The organization said Tuesday it would offer “meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again,” but out of respect for the families, wanted to give time for “mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts” before commenting further.
The 4.3 million-member NRA largely disappeared from public debate after the shooting in Newtown, choosing atypical silence as a strategy as the nation sought answers after the rampage. The NRA took down its Facebook page and kept silent on Twitter.
Unlike its actions in the wake of other mass shootings, the group did not put out a statement of condolence for the victims while simultaneously defending the rights of gun owners.
In the lead-up to its news conference Friday, the NRA re-activated its Facebook account — it has 1.7 million members — and its Twitter feed now warns supporters that “President Obama supports gun control measures, including reinstating an assault weapons ban.” The group also announced that its top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, planned to appear Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
It’s an about-face from the group that ignored requests for comment and shunned media attention for four days following last week’s shootings.
Since the slayings, Obama has demanded “real action, right now” against U.S. gun violence and called on the NRA to join the effort. Moving quickly after several congressional gun-rights supporters said they would consider new legislation to control firearms, the president said this week he wants proposals on reducing gun violence that he can take to Congress by January.
Vice President Joe Biden is leading a working group of administration officials and outside advisers to offer recommendations by January. Biden’s group is considering reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons, which expired in 2004, closing loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks and restricting high-capacity magazines.
Gun-control measures have faced strong opposition in Congress for the past decade but Obama has suggested he intends to make it a key part of his agenda next year. In Friday’s video, he urged the public to become involved.
“If we’re going to succeed, it’s going to take a sustained effort of mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, law enforcement and responsible gun owners, organizing, speaking up, calling their members of Congress as many times as it takes, standing up and saying ‘enough’ on behalf of all our kids,” Obama said.
Source: NBC 4 NY