As Senate Democrats near completion of a gun control package, President Barack Obama made an impassioned plea to the public to let its members of Congress know how it feels about restrictions on high capacity ammunition clips and universal background checks.
Flanked by parents and teachers of students killed at Virginia Tech and Newtown, Conn.,Obama cited public opinion polling on certain provisions that are failing to garner majority support in Congress.
"How often do 90 percent of Americans agree on anything? It never happens," he said, citing polling data showing that many Americans support universal background checks. That provision has been a point of contention in Congress as Republicans express concern about the government creating a database of gun owners.
Senate Democrats have put together a reform package that does not include a so-called assault weapons ban much to the chagrin of some liberals, but it still is unlikely to win passage in the Republican-controlled House.
But despite the daunting prospects, Obama told lawmakers to not "get squishy."
"Tears aren't enough, expressions of sympathy aren't enough, speeches aren't enough. We've cried enough, we've known enough heartbreak," he said. "What we are proposing is not radical. It's not taking away anybody's gun rights. It's something that if we are serious we will do. Now's the time to turn that heartbreak into something real."
Obama said he recently read a news article questioning whether or not the time had past for gun control legislation, in part because of the seemingly successful effort by the National Rifle Association to rally its supporters against further gun restrictions.
"There are some powerful voices on the other side that are interested in running out the clock or changing the subject or drowning out the majority of the American people to prevent any of these reforms from happening at all," Obama said. "They are doing everything they can to make all our progress collapse out of fear and frustration."
Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the NRA, said Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press that the idea behind background checks is flawed.
"Criminals aren't going to be checked, they are not going to do this," he said. He also encouraged lawmakers to work to improve the mental health system and beef up school security, both of which are included in developing legislation, as a means of reducing gun violence.
Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, says pushing for universal background checks should be a top legislative priority.
"It's just sort of a bedrock thing. If we want to make it harder to make guns get into the hands of high-risk, dangerous people, then we have to have a background check for every sale," he says. "It's absurd not to."
About 40 percent of gun sales are currently made without background checks, he says.
Obama's latest comments follow other emotional addresses he's made on reducing gun violence, following an appearance at a vigil in Connecticut after the Newtown massacre that left more than 20 first-graders dead and the most memorable part of his State of the Union address when he called on lawmakers to at least vote on gun proposals.
"Shame on us if we forgot. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten," he said Thursday.
Gun reform proponents are hoping a grass roots push from the public can help move Congress towards legislation, even as the details of proposals remain unclear and the likelihood of a bipartisan package appears remote.