President Obama’s State of the Union Address: “Now We Need to Finish the Job”

President Obama, delivering his 2013 “State of the Union” address Tuesday night

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many and not just the few,” President Obama said, as he began his 2013 State of the Union address Tuesday night.  “Now we need to finish the job.”

The President pledged to work toward a government that “opens the doors of opportunity to every child in this great nation.”

He talked about education, job creation, immigration and climate change.

He spoke about winding down the war in Afghanistan, fighting terrorism and pushing for more democracy in the Middle East.

But he saved his most impassioned plea for the last part of his address – the part where he talked about the killing of 20 kids and six grownups two months ago, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The President implored Congress to vote on his proposals to toughen gun laws – proposals designed to take military-style assault weapons off the streets and out of the hands of people who use them to kill other people.

“Overwhelming majorities of Americans … have come together around commonsense reforms, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,” Mister Obama said.  “Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.  Police chiefs are asking (for) our help to get weapons of war … off the streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.”

The President faces a tough battle, especially in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

But he told lawmakers last night that each of his gun-control proposals deserves a vote.

“If you want to vote no, that’s your choice,” he said.  “But these proposals deserve a vote.”

Then, after speaking more about victims of gun violence, the President singled out former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was in the audience.

Giffords resigned last year — a year after she was shot in the head by a disturbed man outside a supermarket in her own congressional district.

“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” Mister Obama said.  “The families of Newtown deserve a vote.  The families of Aurora (Colorado) deserve a vote.  The families of Oak Creek (Wisconsin) and Tucson (Arizona) and Blacksburg (Virginia) and countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.”

In the Republican response to the address, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida appeared to be unmoved by the President’s plea.

“We were all heartbroken by the recent tragedy in Connecticut,” Rubio said.  “We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country.  But unconstitutionally undermining the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.”

(The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is the one that says that all Americans have the right to “keep and bear arms.”)

It’ll be up to the President to convince members of Congress that banning weapons that are essentially designed to hunt humans does not undermine anyone’s right to self-protection.

“Our actions will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country,” Mister Obama said.  “Indeed, no laws, no initiatives, no administrative acts will perfectly solve all the challenges I’ve outlined tonight.  But we were never sent here to be perfect.  We were sent here to make what difference we can.”