President Obama has consistently called for a national conversation on gun violence since December's Connecticut school shootings, and on Wednesday, some of his most loyal backers — Hollywood's B-List — responded.
Actors Chris Rock, Amanda Peet and Adam Scott, along with 86-year-old crooner Tony Bennett, joined other advocates and victims of gun violence on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning to press Congress to act on Mr. Obama's proposals.
Mr. Bennett said that the level of gun violence in the U.S. reminded him of Germany before World War II "where the Nazis came over, created tragic things, and they had to be told off."
Mr. Bennett said he has a rule at his house — no guns allowed.
"I just believe that assault weapons — they were invented for war," he said. "They shouldn't be on our streets here."
Since the December shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 schoolchildren and six adults were slain, Mr. Obama has pushed for bans on military-style semiautomatic rifles and for limits on ammunition magazines, as well as broader background checks for gun buyers.
And the president has sought to enlist his supporters, imploring them to call their members of Congress and ask them to vote for his proposals.
On Wednesday, the celebrities appeared with gun-crime victims, including Stephen Barton, who was wounded in a shooting spree last July in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and Lori Haas, whose daughter was wounded in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings.
Ms. Peet singled out Mr. Obama's calls for more study of gun violence and his executive action letting doctors know they are allowed to ask patients whether they own firearms.
Ms. Peet's sister practices internal medicine at an inner-city hospital in North Philadelphia, which sees about 500 gunshot-wound victims per year, she said.
"Despite these numbers, some people believe my sister should be prohibited from asking her patients about guns in their homes," she said. "Some states have already implemented these restrictions. Doctors can ask if their patients practice unsafe sex or use illicit drugs or have suicidal ideations or feel threatened in the home, but it's illegal for them to discuss guns."
Mr. Rock, an actor and comedian who works gun control into his routines, didn't delve into those kinds of specifics.
"I am just here to support the president of the United States," said the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member. "The president of the United States is, you know, our boss. But he's also, you know, the president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country. And when your dad says something, you listen. [And] when you don't, it usually bites you in the [expletive] later on."
While Mr. Obama is still pushing for his broad slate of controls, Mark Glaze, director of the gun-control advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said his group is now focusing on expanding background checks to cover all gun sales, including private transactions. Right now, federal law only requires checks on purchases made by licensed firearms dealers.
"That's our top priority," Mr. Glaze said. "Other organizations may prioritize different things, but I think we agree that that is the biggest problem and also the thing that we can probably do."
Mr. Obama said Monday that weapon and magazine bans deserve "a vote in Congress," leading some to speculate that he is willing to settle for the more politically realistic prize of background checks. But White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back on that notion Wednesday.
"The president firmly supports reinstatement of the assault weapons ban," Mr. Carney said. "He has long supported that. He understands that these issues are difficult, that achieving them will not be easy. But he is committed to pressing forward on them and to enlisting the support of lawmakers, in both the House and the Senate, of both parties, in the effort."
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David Sherfinski covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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