The latest development in the gun control debate is sure to ignite debate on both sides of the issue. President Barack Obama handed off the reigns of his weekly Presidential Radio Address to someone else. Francine Wheeler, whose son Ben, 6, was killed in the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, gave a heartfelt plea urging Americans to put pressure on Congress to pass gun control legislation. Wheeler became the first civilian in the history of the address to deliver it.
Last Thursday the Senate voted to allow debate to proceed on gun control, 68-31, which completely disarmed a threatened filibuster by 13 senators including Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The bill is expected to focus around expanded background checks in a bi-partisan compromise forged by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). As debate moves to the Senate floor, it is clear that President Obama seeks to move the gun control battle to the sphere of public debate in order to see the legislation reach his desk.
Wheeler, accompanied by her husband David Wheeler, could barely hold back tears at times as she described her memories of her slain son. In her remarks Mrs. Wheeler reflected on her tragic day in December saying, "Sometimes I close my eyes and all I can remember is that awful day waiting at the Sandy Hook volunteer firehouse for the boy who could never come home."
However Wheeler spoke with conviction when it came to her overall message of support for gun control legislation. "But other times I feel Ben's presence filling me with courage for what I have to do for him and all the other’s taken from us so violently and too soon. We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common-sense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us," she said in the address.
The Obama administration has been on the public relations offensive in the gun control debate. President Obama gave a speech last Monday in Connecticut, the state where the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting took place, urging Congress to pass gun control legislation. Vice President Joe Biden delivered a speech last Tuesday pressing Congress to act on gun control legislation.
As the gun control legislation moves to the floor of the Senate, similar legislation is going to be introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). Several Republicans in the House are going to be closely watched for potential support of extended background checks, including Tea Party hero Paul Ryan, who said in a recent interview on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" that he was for closing “gun show loopholes." "I think there is a reasonable area there to have a workable solution," Ryan said on the program.
As the gun control debate moves to the legislative floor, Wheeler concluded with a plea that urged viewers to get involved: "Now is the time to act. Please join us."