Washington — President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe and other law enforcement officials Monday as part of the White House’s policy to reach out to the public in the hopes it pressures Congress to approve gun control measures.
“If law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them, and we’ll be able to make progress,” Obama said.
Last week Obama unveiled an ambitious package aimed at combating gun violence that included the reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons and high capacity gun magazines and the expansion of background checks on those who buy guns.
Those initiatives, however, require congressional approval, and that may be difficult.
“We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country,” the president said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which counts Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., as a member, will hold its first hearing Wednesday on gun control measures — including a proposed ban on assault weapons.
Also present at the meeting Monday were 12 other law enforcement officers, including Kehoe’s counterparts from Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and 58 wounded in a shooting at a movie theater in July, and from Oak Creek, Wis., where six people were killed and four wounded at a Sikh temple in August.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano also attended the meeting.
Newtown officials and the families of the 20 children and six educators slaughtered at the shootout at Sandy Hook Elementary School are expected to play an increasingly active role in the White House’s campaign against gun violence.
The families of Newtown victims were present — discretely in a crowd — when Obama rolled out his gun control plan, and Newtown Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson testified at a congressional hearing on gun control earlier this month in support of the president’s plan.
Family members of Newtown victims are also expected to be sitting with first lady Michele Obama during the president’s State of the Union address Feb. 12.