Americans for Responsible Solutions, the advocacy group the couple founded after the shooting, used the occasion of the speech to run a commercial — aired in five targeted media markets — calling on Congress to strengthen background checks. The commercial aired in Washington, D.C., and northern Virginia, California, Kentucky, Nevada, and Ohio. Those markets represent the home districts of the congressional leadership in both chambers.
Even as Obama spoke, gun violence prominently reared its head on the other side of the country, as an intensive, days-long manhunt for a former Los Angeles police officer suspected in several murders appeared to end with a deadly shootout near Big Bear Lake, Calif.
‘Do Something,’ Victim’s Mother Implores
Earlier in the day, several of the shooting survivors and family members who attended the speech appeared at an emotional press conference on Capitol Hill to call on Congress to act on the president’s proposals. The group, which included about a dozen Democratic lawmakers and representatives from gun control advocacy groups, faced reporters in the Gabriel Zimmerman Meeting Room of the Capitol Visitor Center, named after a congressional aide who died in the shooting that wounded Giffords and Barber.
“I’m appealing to the Congress. ... You guys signed up for the job. Do something,” said Cleopatra Pendleton, the mother of the Chicago shooting victim.
In interviews after the news conference, several House Democrats said House Republican leaders have taken too passive an approach on the president’s gun proposals. Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, indicated in January that he would let the Senate take the lead, and GOP House leaders generally have declined to weigh in on specific Democratic-backed gun proposals since then.
“Regardless of whether the Senate acts first or not, this is a time for real leadership. I call upon the speaker and the Republican leadership to bring a bill to the floor,” said Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who was himself the victim of an accidental shooting in 1980, when a stray bullet fired by a police officer severed his spinal cord and left him quadriplegic.
Langevin said he would prefer that Republicans work with Democrats on a “broad-based bill” that includes a ban on assault weapons and large magazines and a requirement for stronger background checks, but he said he would accept a piecemeal approach.
“If we can’t get a comprehensive bill,” he said, “at least give us an up-or-down vote on each of these bills individually.”
But after the speech, House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., continued to take a wait-and-see approach.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims of senseless acts of violence,” Goodlatte said. “However, good intentions do not necessarily make good laws, so as we investigate the causes and search for solutions, we must ensure that any proposed solutions will actually be meaningful in preventing the taking of innocent life and that they do not trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., called it a “sad thing” that Republicans didn’t stand when Obama called for an up or down vote on guns. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said it was “a brilliant idea” to invite gunshot victims, saying, “It added an emotional element to have people there who have been directly affected by gun violence.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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