WASHINGTON -- When President Barack Obama delivered his 2013 State of the Union address, his impassioned plea for lawmakers to vote on anti-gun violence legislation was deemed one of the most memorable moments of his presidency. That speech came just two months after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and at the onset of an ambitious push by Obama's administration to advance the most sweeping reforms to gun policy in a generation.
One year later, with his gun control agenda considered dead on Capitol Hill, the president used the same venue to pledge that he will advance measures to reduce gun violence "with or without Congress."
"Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day," Obama said Tuesday in his State of the Union address. "I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say 'we are not afraid,' and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."
In contrast, last year's speech highlighted the victims of gun violence who'd been invited as guests and ended with an emotional call to action. Last year, Obama mentioned guns seven times; this year, the word appeared once in in speech totaling close to 7,000 words.
It was an acknowledgement on the president's part that Congress has little appetite to revisit the issue of gun control, especially in an election year. Instead, any changes to gun policy at this point will likely require executive action. Although Obama's presidential powers only grant him the authority to approve modest reforms, one of the measures signed by the president earlier this month would strengthen background checks for gun purchasers, with a particular focus on mental health.
The White House also identified 23 executive actions last year when Obama unveiled his gun control push in response to the Newtown shooting that were taken immediately.