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Sandy Hook families on Air Force One: why it matters

In an unusual move, 11 family members of Sandy Hook victims will fly with President Obama back to Washington on Air Force One so they can lobby Congress on gun control.

By Staff writer / April 8, 2013

President Obama (c.) arrives at Bradley Air National Guard Base in Hartford, Conn., Monday. Obama is in Connecticut to deliver remarks on measures to reduce gun violence, at the University of Hartford.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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Washington

President Obama is pulling out all the stops this week on gun legislation, amid news of a fresh effort at compromise to expand background checks for gun buyers.

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Mr. Obama delivers a speech late Monday afternoon on gun violence in Hartford, Conn., about an hour from the scene of last December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Vice President Joe Biden will hold a gun-related event at the White House on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama travels to Chicago for another gun event.  

But most unusual, perhaps, is the fact that 11 family members of Sandy Hook victims will accompany the president on Air Force One back to Washington after his speech at the University of Hartford. The family members will head to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress on gun legislation.

At his daily briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney portrayed the Air Force One news as a matter of logistics.

“These are family members who are planning to be in Washington to speak with Congress about the importance of taking action to reduce gun violence,” Mr. Carney said, “and in order to make sure they were able to attend the event in Connecticut and still be in Washington when they needed to be, we invited those family members to fly back with the president.”

Obama frequently surrounds himself with stakeholders – be they middle-class taxpayers, law enforcement, or supporters of health-care reform – when making public remarks. But having them hitch a ride on Air Force One to get them to D.C. for a lobbying push is rare. The move no doubt reflects the depth of Obama’s emotion on gun violence, and on the Sandy Hook massacre in particular, in which 20 first-graders were murdered by a lone gunman. The day of the massacre, the president brushed away tears and could barely speak when he addressed the tragedy in public for the first time.

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