President Barack Obama demanded Monday in a fierce address in West Hartford that Congress bring new gun control proposals to a vote, just as a top Republican on Capitol Hill vowed to block one.
Earlier Monday afternoon, Obama had met with family members of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre.
His speech at the University of Hartford was part of his national push to enact new, stricter gun control legislation, less than four months after 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down in Newtown.
"Connecticut has shown the way, and now is the time for Congress to do the same — this week," Obama told his audience, before listing the key components of the Democratic-led gun control package.
"All of them are commonsense. All of them deserve a vote," he said. Afterward, he paused as his audience chanted, "we want a vote."
"Connecticut, this is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right things for all the families that are here," he said, his voice horses its pitch rose. "This is about these families and families all across the country who are saying, 'let's make it a little harder for our kids to get gunned down.'"
But even as the president urged Congress to allow an up-or-down vote in the Senate and warned the GOP not to filibuster, the Senate's top Republican said he would join a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office said Monday evening, in a statement released during Obama's speech, that he "will oppose cloture on proceeding to that bill."
Just before his speech, Obama had met privately with 11 relatives of seven first-graders and one educator killed in the Newtown massacre. Afterward, they were flying back to Washington with the president on Air Force One to personally plead with senators reluctant to back gun legislation.
Monday afternoon, Air Force One had first touched down at the Air National Guard base at Bradley Airport around 4:30 p.m. President Obama shook hands with dignitaries and some members of the military before climbing in his limousine and heading for the University of Hartford.
Security was heightened on the campus, as well as surrounding towns.
Bloomfield police warned that there would be road closures on Monday.
"On Monday April 8, 2013, the University of Hartford is expecting the President of the United States, Barack Obama, to visit the campus. As a result of this visit, the Town of Bloomfield is anticipating local access to be restricted in some areas with numerous road closures and major traffic delays during the evening commute in the surrounding areas of the university. The road closures and traffic delays should be expected from 4 p.m. until approximately 7 p.m. All motorists are strongly encouraged to make their travel plans with these delays in mind," a news release from Bloomfield police states.
West Hartford Police said they sent a message to residents of Portage Road, Sunny Reach Drive and Bloomfield Avenue to plan for possible traffic disruptions.
In the days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Obama visited Newtown, visited privately with the families of the 20 students and six educators killed and attended an interfaith vigil.
Then, he asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force to come up with ways to reduce gun violence.
During a news conference about gun control, he said he has a painting by one of the victims, Grace McDonnell, in his private study and it stands as a reminder of that tragic December day.
“I hung it in my private study, just out of the Oval Office. And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace, and I think about the life that she lived, and the life that lay ahead of her, and most of all, I think about how, when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now – for Grace, for the 25 other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give,” Obama said in January.
State and federal gun control proposals have been met with mixed reaction. Families of the victims have asked for strict regulations, particularly for guns with large-capacity magazines, while guns rights groups have said law-abiding citizens’ will be penalized.
"The biggest obstacles going forward are some of the Sentate's obtuse procedural rules, like the 60-vote threshold," Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. "But also the stranglehold that the NRA and other special interest have succeeded in proposing in a generation or more."