Several family members of victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are flying with the president on Air Force One. On Tuesday, they will head to Capitol Hill to meet face-to-face with members of Congress, just as they successfully did with elected leaders of their own state last week.
"Help this be the beginning of turning tragedy into transformation for us all. That is what the president is doing," Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan in the Newtown shooting, said as she introduced the president Monday.
The president spoke at Connecticut's University of Hartford, about 50 miles from the elementary school where 20 students were gunned down in December.
"Newtown, we want you to know that we're here with you. We will not walk away from the promises we've made," said Mr. Obama.
Last week, Connecticut's governor signed some of the toughest gun control legislation in the country.
"Connecticut has shown the way, now it's time for Congress to do the same," the president said.
The U.S. Senate is considering a bill that includes expanded background checks, tougher penalties for gun trafficking and more money for school safety, but it does not include a ban on assault-style weapons or high-capacity ammunition clips.
Multiple national polls showing 90 percent support for universal background checks. But Republican Sen. Rand Paul is leading a growing number of Republicans threatening to block any vote at all. Thirteen are now signing a letter to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid saying any new gun restrictions would violate the Second Amendment.
"Even if you had all your universal background checks, bad guys are going to get guns and it's not going to solve the problem in the schools," said Asa Hutchinson, director of the NRA's National School Shield initiative.
Mr. Obama started tearing up when addressing that point on Monday.
"This is not about me. This is not about politics. This is about doing the right thing for all the families who are here that have been torn apart by gun violence. It's about them and all the families going forward, so we can prevent this from happening again. That's what it's about," the president told the crowd.
Several senators with strong ratings from the NRA, including Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, are working on a possible compromise bill. It would include increased background checks, but they would not be universal. Gun sales between relatives and friends would be exempt. None of the bills, though, are finalized.