Air Force One will take families of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting back to Washington with President Barack Obama following his speech Monday on gun violence at the University of Hartford, the White House confirmed following news reports.
The White House invited the families who lost loved ones in December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to fly with the president so that they may both attend the speech Monday and still get to Washington in time to speak with lawmakers this week about gun legislation.
Obama and the White House have been publicly urging Congress to act swiftly on gun reform, but that push increases this week as Congress returns from recess and Senate Democrats prepare to introduce gun reform legislation.
Obama suggested last month that too much time had passed since the Dec. 14 shooting and a strong legislative response to gun violence. "Less than 100 days ago that happened, and the entire country was shocked," Obama said in a public speech March 28, 100 days after the shooting. "And the entire country pledged we would do something about it and that this time would be different. Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids."
The White House this week is calling on all of its major players, in addition to the Newtown families, to send a message to Congress on gun reform.
Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday will deliver remarks along with law enforcement on gun violence at the White House. On Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama travels to Chicago to speak about gun violence. And on Thursday, Biden will appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" for a roundtable discussion on gun safety.
Democrats revealed last month that a gun reform package will not include a controversial assault weapons ban. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he will put that ban to a separate vote as an amendment to make an overall gun reform package more politically palatable to members, especially Senate Democrats in gun rights states who are key to gun reform passage.
Requiring background checks for all gun sales—including at gun shows—is likely to be included in the Senate legislation, as well as measures to address gun trafficking.