By JONATHAN D. SALANT, Bloomberg News
The Hartford Courant
5:37 PM EDT, April 13, 2013
Delivering the weekly White House address in place of President Barack Obama, the mother of a child killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings said the nation needs new gun laws "before our tragedy becomes your tragedy."
Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son, Ben, was one of the 20 children killed by a gunman Dec. 14 at the Newtown school, is the first person outside the administration to give the address during Obama's presidency.
"And as a citizen, I'm here at the White House today because I want to make a difference and I hope you will join me," Wheeler said in the recorded audio and video address released Saturday morning.
Wheeler was part of a group of Newtown victims' relatives who traveled to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby senators who are considering legislation to expand background checks for firearms buyers, increase funding for school safety and set new penalties for gun trafficking.
They flew from Connecticut with Obama, who delivered a speech April 8 at the University of Hartford to urge action on measures to curb gun violence.
Describing her son's "love of fun and excitement" and his prowess at soccer and piano, Wheeler urged citizens to pressure their senators.
"Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy," Wheeler said, with her husband, David, at her side. "We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass common sense gun responsibility reform that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us."
She said the April 11 vote in the Senate to allow debate to proceed on the gun legislation was "only a start." Supporters overcame opposition from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans trying to keep the measure from coming to the Senate floor.
The bill faces an uncertain fate in the House, where Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has said he won't make a commitment to bring it to a vote.
"They haven't yet passed any bills that will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people," Wheeler said. "And a lot of people are fighting to make sure they never do."
The Republicans' weekly address focused on the budget. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana criticized Obama's spending plan, which proposes tax increases on wealthier Americans and reduces spending on entitlement programs. She said the Republicans offered a better plan, which she said would balance the budget in 10 years.
"The president's budget isn't a compromise; it's a blank check for more spending and more debt," she said.
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