WASHINGTON -- Three months after the Newtown, Conn., shooting, President Obama said Americans and lawmakers should be ashamed if they’ve forgotten the calls for tighter gun laws that followed the elementary school massacre.
“The entire country was shocked, and the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different,” Obama said Thursday at the White House. “Shame on us if we’ve forgotten. I haven’t forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we’ve forgotten.”
Obama’s remarks were aimed at reviving the stalled momentum for new gun-control laws, an effort that has been crowded out by other issues and stalled in Congress.
Although the Senate is expected to begin voting on a bill when it returns from a recess the week of April 8, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has not yet struck a deal on key details and lawmakers have said that major provisions backed by the president – bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – will not be included in the package, although it will be proposed as an amendment.
Obama’s remarks, his first extended comments on the subject in more than a month, came on a “day of action” coordinated by gun-control advocates trying to keep the pressure on lawmakers.
Standing with a group of mothers of gun victims, the usually low-key president looked angry and frustrated that his drive for new laws might be flagging. He appeared to be speaking off the cuff and issued an unusually direct warning for lawmakers.
“If enough members of Congress take a stand for cooperation and common sense and lead and don’t get squishy because time has passed and maybe it’s not on the news every single day,” the president said, “if that’s who we are, that’s our character that we’re willing to follow through on commitments that we say are important, commitments to each other and to our kids, then I’m confident we can make this country a safer place for all of them.”
Obama’s message was aimed at Republicans and Democrats in the Senate. While a group of Democratic lawmakers have been seeking Republican support for legislation that would expand the background check system, other Democrats have suggested they aren’t on board and Democratic leaders decided not to include the assault-weapons and high-capacity magazines ban in the bill.
As the talks burn time, new polling show the issues has diminished and a surge of support for new gun restrictions has faded. A CBS poll released this week shows 47% of those surveyed support tighter gun laws, down from a high of 57% just after the shootings. Thirty-nine percent want those laws kept as they are, and an additional 11% want them made less strict.
Obama appeared frustrated by the reports of lost interest.
“The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we’ve moved on to other things -- that’s not who we are. That’s not who we are,” he said.