President Obama hailed the nation's police force as America at "its best and its bravest" Saturday, while continuing his push for tougher gun laws.

At an event honoring the nation's top cops, Obama reiterated his call for "common sense steps" to better control the flow of guns, in part to protect the officers joining him at the White House.

He said Washington had to make it "harder for criminals to get their hands on lethal weapons."

An effort in the Senate to pass new gun control laws in the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, has fizzled, but lawmakers insist they will continue working on the issue.

The president hailed the officers gathered in Washington to receive the award, and all in law enforcement. He pointed to the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, and the ensuing manhunt, as emblematic of the best of law enforcement.

"First responders were running towards explosions, not knowing if there was something more on the way," he said. "We don't always get that opportunity to stand and applaud the men and women who keep us safe."

Obama also used the event to argue that, even in a tough economy, Washington must ensure law enforcement officials have the funds they need.

"The rest of us should be just be able to summon some tiny fraction of courage and the same sense of responsibility, and certainly that applies to us responsible for supporting you," he said. "We've got make sure they've got the resources that they need."

The president rattled off a number of the achievements of the law enforcement gathered, but singled out Detective Ivan Marcano from New York. While off-duty, Marcano witnessed a pair of attackers assault a cab driver in the Bronx. Jumping from his girlfriend's car, he confronted the attackers and was shot in the chest. The attackers escaped — initially.

On the way to the hospital in his girlfriend's car, they ran into the getaway vehicle. Marcano, using one hand to apply pressure to his gunshot wound and the other to pull out his service weapon, pursued on foot and was able to arrest one of the attackers, Obama said. The other was eventually captured as well. The president expressed amazement at that degree of dedication.

"He wasn't on the clock when this happened. This was date night, it was unbelievable," he said. "She deserves a really nice dinner after putting her through that."