President Obama Takes Gun Control Push to Connecticut

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks at an interfaith vigil for the shooting victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 16, 2012 at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.PlayOlivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
WATCH Obama Takes Gun Control Push to Connecticut

President Obama takes his gun control push to Connecticut today, speaking just 50 miles north of the site where 20 children and six educators were murdered last year.

The president's visit to the University of Hartford comes as he tries to build political momentum ahead of the Senate's consideration of new gun measures this month. This will mark the president's first trip to the state since he consoled the Newtown, Conn., community two days after the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"We can't tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change," President Obama said at a prayer vigil in Newtown in December. "If there's even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that's visited Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.

"I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? We can't accept events like this as routine," he said.

Following the massacre at Sandy Hook, the president kicked off the administration's push to curb gun violence, assigning Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force to recommend new gun control proposals. Some states followed suit, trying to find ways to alleviate gun violence, and Connecticut became one of four states to pass stricter gun measures on the state level just last week.

But nearly four months after the tragedy that shocked the nation, it is unclear whether Congress will be able to pass the national gun measures it is set to consider this month.

The Senate returns from recess today and will begin consideration of a comprehensive gun package this week or the next. While the assault weapons ban is not part of the legislation, the gun measures in the bill include proposals to crack down on gun traffickingl and to require background checks on all gun purchases.

Many Republicans and some moderate Democrats have objected to a universal background check system, which they say will lead to a national registry of guns, and a group of Republican senators, led by Rand Paul, R-Ky.; Mike Lee, R-Utah; and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have threatened to filibuster any gun legislation that would create greater restrictions for gun owners.

But The Associated Press reported Sunday that one Republican and one Democratic senator -- Pat Toomey, R-Penn., and Joe Manchin, W.V. -- are working on a deal that would extend background checks to gun shows and online sales.

A bi-partisan agreement on background checks would signal a major turning point in the debate on gun control in the Senate and could persuade some hesitant senators to agree to the plan.

The White House is planning a series of events this week to push its message to Congress and the public that lawmakers need to pass what the administration calls common sense gun measures.

On Tuesday, the vice president is scheduled to hold an event with law enforcement officials at the White House, and on Wednesday, Michelle Obama plans to travel to her hometown of Chicago to talk about curbing gun violence in local communities.

But on Monday, all eyes will be on Connecticut as the president tries to remind the country of reasons he is pushing for gun control. The last time he was in the state just two days after the 20 children and six educators were gunned down, the president assured the Newtown community that "you are not alone."

"Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts," the president said in Newtown last December. "I can only hope it helps for you to know that you're not alone in your grief, that our world, too, has been torn apart, that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you. We've pulled our children tight.

"And you must know that whatever measure of comfort we can provide, we will provide," he said. "Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone."