Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bloomberg’

President says US should be ashamed if Newtown was being forgotten already and rejects criticism he has delayed on reform

Barack Obama rejected criticism on Thursday that he has delayed too long on gun reform, allowing memories of the Newtown shooting to fade and allowing time for opponents to regroup.

In a speech at the White House, attended by parents of gun victims, he said bluntly that the United States should be ashamed if the horror of Newtown was already being forgotten.

The president’s comments were part of National Day to Demand Action, organised jointly with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the campaign to put pressure on Congress to pass “commonsense” reforms driven by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

There have been complaints from gun reform activists that Obama has squandered an opportunity for action in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting in December.

But Obama disputed that the country had moved on from Newtown. “Less than 100 days ago that happened. And the entire country was shocked, and the entire country pledged we would do something and this time would be different. Shame on us if we have forgotten. I have not forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we have forgotten,” he said.

Obama said he expected votes in the Senate on gun reform measures soon after Congress returns from its Easter break on 8 April. The relatively modest package of measures he proposed in January has already been scaled back, with a ban on military-style automatic weapons effectively scuppered and even background checks to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental problems in the balance.

One of the criticisms of Obama is that instead of asking vice-president Joe Biden to oversee a task force looking at proposals for reform in January and then leaving Congress to come up with a draft bill, he should have pushed his own set of proposals when emotions were still raw.

The president at the White House, accused opponents of reform of trying to run down the clock. He called for members of the public who back gun reform to put pressure on their members of Congress, most of them back in their districts and home states for the Easter break.

Among those in the audience at the White House were the families of Newtown victims Grace McDonnell, Lauren Rousseau and Jesse Lewis, as well as the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, who was killed in Chicago, and Nardyne Jeffries, the mother of Washington shooting victim Brishell Jeffries.

Obama acknowledged he had read an article “in the news just the other day wondering has Washington missed its opportunity, because as time goes on after Newtown, somehow people start moving on and forgetting”

This was not the case, he said. “Let me tell you, the people here, they don’t forget. Grace’s dad is not forgetting. Hadiya’s mom hasn’t forgotten. 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.”

It was an extremely emotional event, with people behind him, some of them families of victims, weeping throughout. “We need everybody to remember how we felt 100 days ago and to make sure that what we said was not just a bunch of platitudes. That we meant it,” Obama said.

“Tears are not enough. Expressions of sympathy are not enough. Speeches are not enough. We have cried enough. We have known enough heartbreak. What we are proposing is not radical. It is not taking away anyone’s gun rights. It is something if we are serious we will do. Now is the time to turn that heartbreak into something real.”

Several Republicans have threatened to filibuster gun reform measures in the Senate. Without 60 of the 100 senators needed to break a filibuster, almost all of the packages proposed by Obama could fall. Obama reiterated he still wanted a ban on military-style assault weapons, even though the Democratic leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, has effectively said it has no chance.

Democrats see the best chance of getting something into law as background checks to ensure guns are not sold to the mentally unstable and checks at gun shows to ensure someone does not have a criminal background. Republicans favour increased security at schools, the line backed by the National Rifle Association.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns put out its first ad in its $12m television campaign Thursday with interviews with family members of those killed at Newtown. The ad campaign is targeting 13 states during the recess.

Bloomberg said: “We cannot afford to wait for another tragedy – it’s long past time for elected officials to listen to their constituents and pass reforms like comprehensive background checks that we know will save lives.”

His co-chair on Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Thomas Menino of Boston, echoed this. “The Senate now has the opportunity to take a vote that the American people are demanding to make our neighborhoods safer. The time has come to pass legislation and make reform a reality.”

The coalition is hiring dozens of organisers and opening campaign offices in 10 states. More than 140 events were scheduled for Thursday in 29 states.


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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama urged lawmakers Thursday to remember the children gunned down in America and not “get squishy” in the face of powerful forces against gun control legislation, as supporters struggle to win over moderate Democratsbefore a Senate vote expected next month.

Obama, flanked by grim-faced mothers who have lost their children to guns, said Washington must do something after the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., three months ago. He called out to the families of four children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School sitting in his audience.

“Shame on us if we’ve forgotten,” Obama said. “I haven’t forgotten those kids.”

Obama’s event comes as gun control legislation faces an uncertain future, even though more than 80 percent of people say in polling they support expanded background checks. Backed by a $12 million TV advertising campaign financed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gun control groups scheduled rallies around the country Thursday aimed at pressuring senators to back the effort.

Obama said the upcoming vote is the best chance in more than a decade to reduce gun violence. He encouraged Americans, especially gun owners, to press lawmakers home from a congressional spring break to “turn that heartbreak into something real.”

“Don’t get squishy because time has passed and it’s not on the news every single day,” Obama said.

Moderate Senate Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are shunning Bloomberg as a meddling outsider while stressing their allegiance to their own voters’ views and to gun rights. While saying they are keeping an open mind and that they support keeping guns from criminals and people with mental disorders, some moderates are avoiding specific commitments they might regret later.

“I do not need someone from New York City to tell me how to handle crime in our state. I know that we can go after and prosecute criminals without the need to infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding North Dakotans,” Heitkamp said this week, citing the constitutional right to bear arms.

Heitkamp does not face re-election next year, but Pryor and five other Senate Democrats from Republican-leaning or closely divided states do. All six, from Southern and Western states, will face voters whose deep attachment to guns is unshakeable — not to mention opposition from the still-potent National Rifle Association, should they vote for restrictions the NRA opposes.

“We have a politically savvy and a loyal voting bloc, and the politicians know that,” said Andrew Arulanandam, spokesman for the NRA, which claims nearly 5 million paying members.

The heart of the Senate gun bill will be expanded requirements for federal background checks for gun buyers, the remaining primary proposal pushed by Obama and many Democrats since 20 first-graders and six women were shot to death in December at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said there aren’t enough votes to approve a ban on assault weapons, while prospects are uncertain for a prohibition on large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Today, the background checks apply only to sales by the nation’s roughly 55,000 federally licensed gun dealers. Not covered are private transactions like those at gun shows and online. The Senate measure is still evolving as Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., use Congress’ two-week recess to negotiate for additional support in both parties.

Expanding background checks to include gun show sales got 84 percent support in an Associated Press-GfK poll earlier this year. Near-universal background checks have received similar or stronger support in other national polls.

Polls in some Southern states have been comparable. March surveys by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute found more than 9 in 10 people in Florida and Virginia backing expanded background checks, the same margin found by an Elon University Poll in North Carolina in February.

Analysts say people support more background checks because they consider it an extension of the existing system. That doesn’t translate to unvarnished support from lawmakers, in part because the small but vocal minorities who oppose broader background checks and other gun restrictions tend to be driven voters that politicians are reluctant to alienate.

“It’s probably true that intense, single-issue gun voters have been more likely to turn out than folks who want common-sense gun laws,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group that Bloomberg helps lead. Glaze, however, said he believes that voters favoring gun restrictions have become more motivated since Newtown and other recent mass shootings.

Several moderate Democrats are holding back as they assess the political landscape. They’re also waiting to see exactly what the Senate will consider.

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, said Wednesday his state’s voters tell him, “Don’t take away our rights, our individual rights, our guns.” Begich said he opposes a strict proposal requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales but will wait to see whether there is a bipartisan compromise he can support.

The problems faced by gun control supporters go beyond the challenge of winning over moderate Democrats. GOP opponents are sure to force Democrats to get 60 of the Senate’s 100 votes to win, and there are only 53 Democrats plus two independents who generally support them.

Also targeted by Bloomberg’s ads are 10 Republicans, including Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, home of ex-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was severely wounded in a mass shooting; the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia; and moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

In another indicator of hurdles facing gun control forces, the Senate voted 50-49 last week to require 60 votes for any legislation narrowing gun rights. The proposal lost because 60 votes in favor were required, but six Democrats voted for the proposal, offered by conservative Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

“It confirms there’s no such thing as an easy gun vote,” said Jim Kessler, a senior vice president of the centrist Democratic group Third Way.

The gun bill also increases penalties for illegal gun sales and slightly boosts aid for school safety.

More abrupt changes like an assault weapons ban generally get slight majorities in polls. Democratic leaders decided to omit it from the Senate bill because such a provision lacks enough votes.

Collected from-–politics.html