WASHINGTON (AP) — In danger of losing congressional momentum, President Barack Obama is drawing attention to Colorado’s newly passed gun control laws as he applies public pressure on Congress to pass similar federal measures.
Obama was visiting Denver Wednesday, stepping up his call for universal background checks for gun buyers as well as his demands for Congress to at least vote on an assault weapons ban and limits on large-capacity ammunition magazines.
The trip is heavy with political symbolism. Colorado expanded background checks and placed restrictions on magazines despite being a state with a deep-rooted hunting tradition, where gun ownership is a cherished right. Moreover, Obama will meet with law enforcement officials and community leaders at the Denver Police Academy, not far from the Aurora suburb where a gunman last summer killed 12 people in a movie theater. The president’s trip is occurring in the same week that prosecutors announced they would seek the death penalty for James Holmes, accused of carrying out the Aurora rampage.
Among those participating in the Denver discussion with Obama was Sandy Phillips, the mother of 24-year-old Jessica Redfield Ghawi, who died in the Aurora shooting. She conceded that gun control is a difficult issue, and said she has spoken to numerous lawmakers in Washington who “want to do the right thing without it costing their jobs.”
She said she is counting on Obama to press the issue.
“We need to have universal background checks for every sale, that’s a minimum,” she said in an interview ahead of Obama’s appearance. “I hope he keeps pushing for the assault weapons ban and I hope he keeps pushing for magazine restrictions.”
With Congress due to return to Washington after a two-week Easter break, Obama has been scheduling high-profile events on gun legislation to push lawmakers and sustain a drive for some kind of action aimed at curbing gun violence more than three months after the massacre at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Last week Obama called for legislation while flanked by 21 mothers who lost children to gun violence. “I haven’t forgotten those kids,” he declared then.
On Monday, just before the planned start of the Senate’s debate on gun legislation, Obama is scheduled to go to Hartford, Conn., where state lawmakers have announced a bipartisan agreement on gun legislation in response to the shootings at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, which took the lives of 20 first-graders and six adult staff.