(Photo: Carolyn Kaster, AP)
Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON - With a group of mothers who have lost children to gun violence by his side, President Obama on Thursday attempted to increase pressure on Congress to pass a package of gun control legislation.
"We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and make sure that what we said at that time wasn't just a bunch of platitudes -- that we meant it," Obama said in remarks at the White House. The audience for his speech included family and friends of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The president's comments came as the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun control advocacy group led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Organizing for America, a pro Obama group, held dozens of events across the country to demand action on reducing gun violence.
The Bloomberg backed group also released a new television ad on Thursday featuring Sandy Hook families.
The legislative package that the Senate is expected to vote on next month when it returns from its spring holiday includes provisions to expand background checks on gun purchases, creates new penalties for straw purchases and includes funding to bolster school safety.
"We have cried enough. We have known enough heartbreak," Obama said."Now is the time to turn that heartbreak into something real."
But the Senate package won't include a ban on assault weapon nor will it set limits on the size of ammunition clips, both of which were key elements of Obama's gun plan released the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
The Senate, however, is expected to vote on an amendment to add the assault weapons ban to the Senate's gun bill. The assault weapons ban has only about the support of 40 members of the upper chamber, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Three GOP lawmakers--Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz--have threatened to block a vote on the gun package.
Lee said in a statement following Obama's speech that the gun proposals are "constitutionally problematic."
"The proposals the president is calling for Congress to pass would primarily serve to reduce the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding citizens while having little or no effect on violent crime," Lee said. "It is deeply unfortunate that he continues to use the tragedy at Newtown as a backdrop for pushing legislation that would have done nothing to prevent that horrible crime."
Obama argued the gun proposals that the Senate is weighing is backed by a vast majority of Americans and that lawmakers have a duty to act.
"Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked," Obama said. "And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten."