President Obama marked the anniversary of the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, and called for a nationwide grassroots push for gun control in his weekly radio address.
The president’s statement came a day after a gunman shot at least one student and then committed suicide at a suburban high school in Colorado, a few miles from Columbine High School, the site of a mass shooting in 1999.
Gun-control legislation has stalled in the Senate, despite Democratic control of the upper chamber and widespread public support for strengthening background checks for gun buyers.
Obama expressed little faith in Congress acting before the mid-term election and instead called on people across the country to become active.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that real change won’t come from Washington. It will come the way it’s always come – from you. From the American people,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday that he would not give up on legislation strengthening background checks in his own remarks commemorating last year’s shooting at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“I promise the families of the 26 innocents killed a year ago in Newtown – and the 173 children killed by guns since December 14, 2012 – that Senate Democrats will not give up on them,” he said.
“I promised the families of Newtown a meaningful conversation about how to change America’s culture of violence. I want everyone within the sound of my voice to know that the conversation is not over,” he added.
Obama on Saturday again sought to unify the country over the tragedy at Newtown much as he did when he spoke at prayer vigil at Newtown High School almost a year a go, one of the most personal and powerful speeches of his presidency.
“The news filled us with grief. Newtown is a town like so many of our hometowns. The victims were educators and kids that could have been any of our own,” he said.
He spoke of “hearts broken for the families” of the victims and the survivors “whose innocence was torn away far too soon.
“But beneath the sadness, we also felt a sense of resolve – that these tragedies must end, and that to end them, we must change,” he said.
He ended his address by calling for a sense of shared responsibility for the young victims of violence in Newtown and elsewhere.
“We have to treat every child like they’re our child. Like those in Sandy Hook, we must choose love. And together, we must make a change,” he said.
Gun-control advocates estimate nearly 200 children have died as a result of gunshots since the Newtown shootings.
Republicans, such as Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, argue that the Obama administration should do more to enforce laws on the books instead of pushing for new legislation.