Obama: Victims of Gun Violence ‘Deserve a Vote’
President Obama used the annual State of the Union address to make an moving plea against gun violence, directing comments to more than two dozen survivors and family members of gun violence victims who attended the event—and calling out legislators for their lack of action. Obama mentioned by name shooting victims including Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old who performed at his second inauguration ceremony days before being fatally shot in a Chicago park.
"Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence," Obama said.
"They deserve a vote," he said, to robust applause.
Those guests, who also included survivors of the Newtown, Conn. and Aurora, Colo. shootings, lent an emotional edge to new White House firearm proposals, including universal background checks for gun sales, bans on certain types of guns and magazines, and increased penalties for gun trafficking.
Pro-gun legislators were not swayed.
“We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country,” said Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.) “But, unconstitutionally undermining the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.”
The type of legislation the Obama administration supports is generally acknowledged to be constitutional.
Rubio was not alone in his resistance to Obama’s plan. After legislators were encouraged to bring those impacted by gun violence as their guests, Congressman Steve Stockman, R-Tex. instead invited inflammatory musician and NRA board member Ted Nugent, whose threatening comments have raised eyebrows in recent years.
Public opinion, though, seems to be on the side of the president. Polls show that Americans broadly support legislation to prevent gun violence, with young people particularly in favor of strong gun violence prevention laws—and 77 percent of homicide victims between the ages of 15 and 17 are killed with a gun.
Obama was careful to note that his proposals are not a cure-all for violent crime, but he presented the White House's plan as a step in the right direction.
“Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country,” he said. “Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I've outlined tonight. But, we were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can.”
Kevin Jersey is a reporter for Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @wordsnotbullets.