President Obama in his weekly address urged both chambers of Congress to hold a vote on a series of gun-control measures, including the controversial assault weapons ban and a limit on magazine sizes.
Referencing the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 20 children and six adults three months ago, Obama on Saturday also pressed lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it harder for criminals and people with mentally illnesses to buy guns by expanding the national background check system.
“Right now, we have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America, and prevent the very worst violence,” he said. “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.”
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged to hold a vote on gun legislation when the Senate returns from its Easter recess.
Reid said the bill would include three provisions that have been reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee: a measure requiring background checks of nearly every gun sale, including most private purchases; a measure that would provide $40 million in grants to schools for security upgrades; and a measure increasing penalties for people who purchase guns on behalf of people barred from buying them.
The background check bill that is currently scheduled for the Senate to vote on is sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and was reported by Democrats along party lines. The measure would require background checks for all private gun sales, except those between immediate family members.
Republicans say that gun sales between friends should also be exempt. They also object to a requirement for the seller to keep a record of the purchase.
Reid said he hoped that ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats attempting to agree on a bipartisan version of a background check bill would progress over the break. The Democratic leader said he would be open to replacing the Schumer bill with a new bipartisan measure if they reached a consensus.
A vote on amendments banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines, and new mental health provisions is also expected, according to Reid.
The House has not moved on any major gun legislation this year and has put the onus on the upper chamber to act first. The assault weapons ban is not expected to pass Congress because of Republican opposition to the measure.