By Benjamin Goad - 01/28/14 09:47 PM EST
President Obama’s State of the Union address contained only a fleeting reference to gun control, following a year in which Congress rebuffed a high-profile campaign to impose an assault weapons ban and universal background checks.
Obama devoted a single paragraph of his speech to the issue Tuesday night.
“Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day,” he said toward the end of his address.
“I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say 'we are not afraid,' and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls or schools like Sandy Hook," the president said.
The mention stood in stark contrast to Obama’s 2013 address, which took place less than two months after a shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 27 people — including 20 first graders — dead.
Obama used a significant portion of his 2013 speech — some nine paragraphs or 324 words — to address the issue of gun violence, announcing his intent to pursue major reforms.
“I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence,” he said last year. “But this time is different.”
The December 2012 massacre in Newtown led to a flurry of new gun control legislation in Congress, including measures to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and a bipartisan bill to expand background checks to all commercial gun sales. But all failed.
The administration sought to accomplish as much as possible unilaterally. Last January, Obama announced 23 executive actions meant to curb violence involving firearms.
The White House claimed progress on each of the actions, which ranged from concrete steps such as confirming a director to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to more vague undertakings such as efforts to “maximize enforcement efforts.”
Despite the inaction in Congress and the relative short shrift given to the issue in Tuesday’s speech, gun control activists have said they see momentum in the drive for tougher regulations.
The group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, (D-Ariz.), who was shot and nearly killed during a 2011 gun rampage in Tucson, Ariz., began airing new ads Tuesday evening urging Congress to revisit gun control.
"Congress continues to listen to the gun lobby instead of their constituents, so we're going to keep fighting at the state level to make our communities safer. It's too dangerous to wait,” said Pia Carusone, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions.