"In the words of Dr. King," he said, "We've got to feel the fierce urgency of now" and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.
Here's an excerpt that includes the moment he had to wipe away tears:
He cited these statistics to underline that urgency:
- 30,000 lives are lost per year to gun violence--almost as many as to car accidents. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/injury.htm
- 60% of gun purchases are made at stores and with background checks.
- 40% of gun purchases are made without any background checks, including online and at gun shows.
President Obama's words were so moving:
"I believe in the Second Amendment....I taught Constitutional law--I know a little about this....Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights we care about as well...
Our right to worship freely and safely--that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina... Jews in Kansas City... Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.
Our right to peaceful assembly--that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette.
Our unalienable right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness--those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders."
At that point the President had to wipe away tears--as did I and many of those listening.
The President had been introduced by Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Gabby Giffords was among those in the audience.
I believe that in the years after he leaves office, this president will continue to use his influence primarily to curb gun deaths, in the way that Jimmy Carter has worked on international peace and on housing.
What the President recommends--some of which will be done by executive order:
1) Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions. (Applause.) It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show. Bring background check system into the 21st century.
2) Enforce existing gun safety laws and add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.
3) Get funding to make mental health care improvements.
4) Increase gun safety technology... so a child can't pull a trigger. Like apps for tablets, phones.
"So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies," he said. "All of us need to stand up and protect our citizens. All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer. We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better."
Full text of the president's remarks while issuing executive orders, including orders to enforce existing gun-safety laws already on the books: