U.S. lawmakers faced intense pressure Tuesday from the White House and families of Newtown, Connecticut, shooting victims, to clear the way for votes on new gun control legislation.
Family members whose loved ones were gunned down at a Newtown elementary school last year spent the day on Capitol Hill making personal appeals to lawmakers.
About a dozen Newtown residents flew to Washington on Air Force One after President Obama delivered a speech Monday challenging Senate Republicans to drop threats to block gun legislation.
Obama seeks debate and votes on all the key objectives he laid out last January, including renewal of an expired assault weapons ban and universal background checks for all gun buyers.
After meeting with police and other law enforcement officials Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden said Congress lags far behind the American people, who polls show support stronger gun laws.
He had scathing criticism for Republicans threatening to block forward movement, saying the situation embarrasses the United States in the eyes of the world.
“The tragedy that traumatized the nation and caught the attention of the entire world and after all the thinking and the debate and the discussion with overwhelming majorities of the American people thinking that the proposal the president put forward made absolute sense, the climax of this tragedy could be we’re not even going to get a vote? Imagine how that looks,” Biden said.
Biden said the National Rifle Association, which is lobbying heavily against stronger gun laws, is trying to scare Americans into believing the federal government aims to take away their guns.
Attorney General Eric Holder rejected a key NRA assertion that President Obama seeks to remove the right of citizens to gun ownership protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“Contrary to what a few have said, this plan which President Obama announced in January, is consistent with the Second Amendment, and will not infringe in any way on the rights of gun owners,” Holder said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney challenged Republicans opposing an expansion of background checks for gun purchasers to be willing to make their position clear in an open vote.
“If they are opposed to background checks they should stand up and say so and vote no. The American people demand at least that,” Carney said.
The White House push on gun control continues on Wednesday. First Lady Michelle Obama speaks in Chicago about the impact of gun violence on children and communities.