White House to bring Newtown families aboard Air Force One

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

UPDATE 1:55 p.m. ET

Air Force One will fly 11 family members of victims of the Newtown, Conn., shootings to Washington with President Barack Obama after his speech on Monday on gun violence at the University of Hartford, the White House confirmed.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said at Monday's press briefing that, before his remarks, the president will meet with family members who lost loved ones in December's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as with first responders. Also, he noted that the White House invited the families to fly on Air Force One so that they could both attend the speech and still get to Washington in time to speak with lawmakers about gun legislation.

"These were family members who were planning to be in Washington to speak with Congress about support for taking action to reduce gun violence," Carney said.

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 between the Dec. 14 shootings 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 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.