WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama put the spotlight back on gun violence on Saturday, praising senators for taking "big steps" to advance gun bills but pressing lawmakers to finish the job and deliver legislation to his desk in the coming weeks.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said the nation has changed in the three months since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 children and six adults. There is "still genuine disagreement" about how to reduce gun violence, he said, but everyone now agrees that it is time to do something.
"Senators here in Washington have listened and taken some big steps forward," Obama said, pointing to the mix of gun control legislation headed to the Senate floor next month. Provisions on the table include tighter background checks, a new gun trafficking statute, an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity gun magazines.
"These ideas shouldn't be controversial -- they're common sense," Obama said. "I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to hold votes in early April on a mix of gun proposals, all of which make up the core of Obama's gun violence package. The bills with broader support will be lumped together into one package, while the more controversial pieces -- including the assault weapons ban -- will be taken up as individual amendments to the package.
Here's the text of Obama's full address:
It has now been three months since the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut. Three months since we lost 20 innocent children and six dedicated adults who had so much left to give. Three months since we, as Americans, began asking ourselves if we’re really doing enough to protect our communities and keep our children safe.
For the families who lost a loved one on that terrible day, three months doesn't even begin to ease the pain they're feeling right now. It doesn't come close to mending the wounds that may never fully heal.
But as a nation, the last three months have changed us. They've forced us to answer some difficult questions about what we can do -- what we must do -- to prevent the kinds of massacres we’ve seen in Newtown and Aurora and Oak Creek, as well as the everyday tragedies that happen far too often in big cities and small towns all across America.
Today there is still genuine disagreement among well-meaning people about what steps we should take to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country. But you, the American people, have spoken. You've made it clear that it’s time to do something. And over the last few weeks, Senators here in Washington have listened and taken some big steps forward.
Two weeks ago, the Senate advanced a bill that would make it harder for criminals and people with a severe mental illness from getting their hands on a gun -- an idea supported by nine out of ten Americans, including a majority of gun owners.
The Senate also made progress on a bill that would crack down on anyone who buys a gun as part of a scheme to funnel it to criminals -- reducing violent crime and protecting our law enforcement officers.
Finally, the Senate took steps to reinstate and strengthen a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons, set a 10-round limit for magazines, and make our schools safer places for kids to learn and grow.
These ideas shouldn't be controversial -- they're common sense. They're supported by a majority of the American people. And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote.
As I've said before, we may not be able to prevent every act of violence in this country. But together, we have an obligation to try. We have an obligation to do what we can.
Right now, we have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America, and prevent the very worst violence. We have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our tradition of responsible gun ownership, and also do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or people with a severe mental illness.
We've made progress over the last three months, but we're not there yet. And in the weeks ahead, I hope Members of Congress will join me in finishing the job -- for our communities and, most importantly, for our kids. Thanks.