U.S. President Barack Obama made a passionate pitch for gun control Tuesday in his fourth State of the Union address as the nation still reels from perhaps its most heinous mass shooting and the 20 first graders who were mowed down by a troubled young man with an assault weapon.
"In the two months since Newtown, more than 1,000 birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun," Obama said as he addressed a joint session of Congress, where tougher gun control laws have scant hope of passing despite overwhelming public support.
"This time is different," the president insisted.
Obama and congressional Democrats have been trying to push through gun control reforms that would mandate universal background checks and limit high-capacity ammunition magazines. One proposal, from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, calls for a ban on assault weapons.
The president called on Congress to vote on all of the proposals. But many congressional Republicans, in particular, and the powerful National Rifle Association that can make or break their political careers, staunchly oppose such measures.
"Gabby Giffords deserves a vote," Obama said of the former Arizona congressman shot in the head by a would-be assassin in early 2011.
As he recited the names and locales of those involved in other mass shootings, Democratic lawmakers and the families of shooting victims tearfully applauded.
"The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence, they deserve a simple vote. They deserve a simple vote," he said.
Obama's plea for gun control, prompting thunderous applause and chants of "vote, vote, vote" from Democratic lawmakers, was the most powerful moment of a lengthy, substantive State of the Union address.