APObama and Nicole HocklysWEST HARTFORD, Conn. —
At the beginning of a crucial week for new gun legislation in Congress, President Barack Obama delivered an impassioned plea before a packed gymnasium here, almost four months after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.The speech served as one of the most emotional and forceful on gun control, as he spoke with urgency at a rally that at times sounded more like a campaign stop.
Obama chided Republican Senators who are hinting at a plan to filibuster new gun legislation — a group that now includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It prompted a raucous crowd to begin chants of, “We want a vote!” Obama joined in, pushing the crowd to cheer for new measures on expanding background checks, limiting magazine capacity, and banning assault-style weaponry.
“Some back in Washington are already floating the idea that they might use political stunts to prevent votes on any of these reforms,” Obama said. “Think about that. They’re not just saying they’ll vote “no” on ideas that almost all Americans support. They’re saying they won’t allow any votes on them at all. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter. And that’s not right.”
Later, in the most forceful line of his speech, he added: “What’s more important — our children or an ‘A’ grade from the gun lobby?”
It was Obama’s first trip to Connecticut since the days after the Sandy Hook tragedy. His visit also came the week after Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed sweeping new state gun reforms into law.
Obama was introduced by Nicole Hocklys — the mother of slain first-grader Dylan — who delivered a tearful plea of her own.
Obama himself got choked up near the end of his remarks, while retelling how Hocklys would tell Obama of her dreams of her slain child.
“I’ve got to tell you, I’ve had tough days in the presidency — I’ve said this before. The day Newtown happened was the toughest day of my presidency,” he said.
“But I’ve got to tell you, if we don’t respond to this, that will be a tough day for me, too. Because we’ve got to expect more from ourselves, and we’ve got to expect more from Congress. We’ve got to believe that every once in a while, we set politics aside and we just do what’s right.”
Closing his speech, Obama pleaded with the crowd to stand up — for the victims from Sandy Hook and other recent mass shootings, and for the change that he hopes comes from them.
They obliged, and they cheered until he left the stage.
“This crowd can happen anywhere in America,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who accompanied Obama on the trip along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “It’s really amazing. But it’s not the first time we’ve seen a Washington disconnect from the rest of the American public.”
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