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President Obama demands an end to gun violence

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 4/19/2013, 9:52 a.m.

Summoning some of the passion that often characterized his campaign speeches, President Barack Obama spoke at length on Monday afternoon in Hartford, Conn., about the need for Congress to enact measures that will reduce gun violence in the nation.

"Last week, here in Connecticut," the president told the huge gathering that included many of the relatives and friends of those killed in the massacre in Newtown last year, "your elected leaders responded. The Connecticut Legislature, led by many of the legislators here today, passed new measures to protect more of our children and our communities from gun violence. And Governor [Dannel] Malloy signed that legislation into law."

Throughout much of this impassioned speech, there was sustained applause, and Obama, with tears gathering in his eyes at some points, connected with his listeners, as he has done on so many other occasions. The speech was given additional resonance when he mentioned by name some of those impacted by the tragedy.

"Two alumni of your performing arts school, Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, lost their daughter Ana--an incredible, vibrant young girl who looked up to them, and learned from them, and inherited their talents by singing before she could talk," the president lamented.

The Greenes, like many of the families still recovering from the incident, have appeared on many national television shows, discussing how they are coping with the loss and getting their lives back together, a point the president stressed several times.

"Over the weekend," Obama continued, "I heard Francine Wheeler, who lost her son Ben that day, say that the four months since the tragedy might feel like a brief moment for some, but for her, it feels like it's been years since she saw Ben. And she's determined not to let what happened that day just fade away. 'We're not going anywhere,' she said. 'We are here. And we are going to be here.' And I know that she speaks for everybody in Newtown, everybody who was impacted."

Perhaps the most moving moment came when the president cited how some folks back in the nation's capital are already floating the idea that they may use political stunts to prevent votes on any of the reforms. "Think about that," he said, in an almost personal way. "They're not just saying that they'll vote 'no' on ideas that almost all Americans support. They're saying they'll do everything they can to prevent any votes on these provisions. They're saying your opinion doesn't matter. And that's not right."

After the president indicated that a vote was necessary on the measure, the audience picked up on the idea, chanting, "We want a vote! We want a vote!"

"This is not about politics," said Obama, interrupting the chanting. "This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. It's about them and all the families going forward, so we can prevent this from happening again. That's what it's about. It's about the law enforcement officials putting their lives at risk. That's what this is about. This is not about politics. This is not about politics."