President Obama charged Monday that his opponents are threatening to use "political stunts" to block an overhaul of gun laws. Republican lawmakers say they will filibuster on Democratic-backed gun-control legislation.
Obama's rebuke came as 13 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday, indicating they would block legislation "that would infringe on the American people's constitutional right to bear arms, or on their ability to exercise this right without being subjected to government surveillance."
Late Monday, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Kentucky Republican would join the filibuster if Reid moves forward with the gun bill.
"They're not just saying they'll vote 'no' on ideas that almost all Americans support," Obama said in a speech at the University of Hartford, 50 miles from the site of the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that reignited the debate over the nation's gun laws. "They're saying your opinion doesn't matter. And that's not right."
With the Senate set to begin debate on new gun measures as soon as this week, it remains uncertain how much of Obama's broad gun-control agenda -- laid out less than a month after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. -- will be enacted.
The current version of the Senate gun bill would strengthen current laws on gun trafficking and straw purchasers, increase grants for improvements in school safety and expand background checks to nearly every gun purchase.
Measures to bar high-capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons -- crucial parts of Obama's original package -- have been left out of the main bill and are expected to be voted on as amendments.
Still, the gun bill is facing increasing opposition from the GOP.
"Senators have an obligation both to uphold the Constitution and to promote solutions that effectively address national problems," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who joined the filibuster threat. "The current gun-control proposals fail both tests."
Reid on Monday called on Republican senators to rescind their threat to block votes.
"There is simply no reason for this blatant obstruction except for the fear of considering anti-violence proposals in full view," Reid said.
The White House said Obama traveled back to Connecticut -- he hadn't been in the state since a vigil days after the Sandy Hook tragedy for the 20 children and six educators who died -- to call on Americans to put pressure on Congress to act.
After his speech, Obama returned to Washington on Monday with 11 family members of Sandy Hook victims who planned to lobby lawmakers on Capitol Hill to take up the president's gun agenda.
In recent weeks, Obama has visited Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis to try to boost public support for his gun-control agenda. But Obama has left much of the heavy lifting of pushing his legislation to Vice President Biden and senior aides.
On Monday, Obama chafed at the suggestion that failure to pass significant parts of his gun legislation would amount to a political failure for him.
"This isn't about me," Obama said. "And it shouldn't be about politics. This is about doing the right thing for families like yours that have been torn apart by gun violence, and families going forward."
President Obama hugs Newtown, Conn., family members after discussing gun-control measures Monday in Hartford.
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