President Barack Obama became emotional as he spoke Tuesday about the victims of gun violence, noting that “it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”
The comment was made as Obama announced new measures to tighten the control and enforcement of firearms in the U.S., using his presidential powers in the absence of legal changes he implored Congress to pass.
Obama wiped tears from his cheeks as he spoke about the first graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad,” he said. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”
Obama was introduced by the father of a first-grader killed during the tragic shooting. Mark Barden's son, Daniel, was one of 20 students killed at the school three years ago.
Behind Obama during his speech, stood the mother of Hadiya Pendleton, an honor student who was fatally shot blocks from her Chicago high school, the unintended target of gang violence.
The death of the 15-year-old girl sent shock waves across the country, drawing the attention and support of First Lady Michelle Obama. Pendleton’s death came just days after the young teen had performed at Obama’s inauguration festivities and happened about a mile from the president’s Chicago home.
Obama's reforms include expanding and upgrading background checks for prospective gun-buyers, hiring more ATF agents and investigators, reporting gun thefts more urgently and providing adequate support for those suffering from mental illnesses.
Obama's package of executive actions aims to curb what he's described as a scourge of gun violence in the U.S., punctuated by appalling mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Charleston, South Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona, among many others. After Newtown, Obama sought far-reaching, bipartisan legislation that went beyond background checks.
When the effort collapsed in the Senate, the White House said it was thoroughly researching the president's powers to identify every legal step he could take on his own.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the measures "critical steps to protest more children and families from the senseless gun violence that is cutting too many lives short and tearing the social fabric in too many of our communities."
"The President’s actions in the face of Congressional inaction send a forceful signal that this challenge is too important to ignore," Emanuel said in a statement. "While we have taken important steps in the City of Chicago to keep guns out of the wrong hands, we are not an island. Our gun safety laws will only be as effective as our federal laws and the laws of our neighboring states."
The executive director for the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, Chris Cox, criticized the move, however, claiming Obama "has chosen to engage in political rhetoric instead of offering meaningful solutions to our nation's pressing problems."