(CNN) - A somber Tony Bennett didn't have much to say Wednesday at a press conference on gun violence. But he wanted one message to get through.
"I still haven't gotten over Connecticut," the 86-year-old singer said. "I'd like the assault weapons to go to war, not in our own country. And I'd like assault weapons eliminated. Thank you."
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Bennett was one of several celebrities and survivors of shootings who gathered in the nation's capital Wednesday to urge lawmakers to act on firearm legislation–and soon.
Sponsored by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the eclectic group of actors, comedians, advocates and doctors argued for a range of changes, from background checks to all-out bans on assault weapons. The same organization, backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, produced a nearly 90-second ad in late December featuring dozens of A-listers calling for a plan against gun violence.
Some simply came Wednesday to throw their support behind President Barack Obama, who's leading a push of his own to tighten gun laws following the Newtown elementary school shooting that left 26 killed, including 20 children.
"The president and the first lady are kind of like the mom and the dad of the country," comedian and actor Chris Rock said. "And when your dad says something, you listen. And when you don't, it usually bites you in the ass later on. So I'm here to support the president."
Obama took his proposals on the road Monday in a campaign-style event in Minneapolis, reiterating his support for banning semi-automatic rifles modeled after military weapons as part of an updated version of an earlier weapons ban that expired in 2004.
A number of proposals have also been put forward on Capitol Hill that would enact stricter gun regulations to varying degrees. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday on ABC that he supported expanding background checks to private transactions–a measure that has widespread, bipartisan support–but stopped short of endorsing an assault weapons ban, as proposed by his Senate colleague Dianne Feinstein.
Opponents say such a ban would do little to prevent gun violence, citing statistics that show most shootings come from handguns, not assault weapons.
Other initiatives that have support from both sides of the aisle include proposals to boost the nation's mental health services. Of the president's 23 executive actions he signed on gun violence last month, three of them deal with mental health and one encourages the Centers for Disease Control to conduct more research on the causes and prevention of gun violence.
Actress Amanda Peet, during the press conference, warned that even with improvements to the mental health system, "a troubled few will slip through the cracks."
"But what's the alternative? Doing nothing will fail, doing nothing has failed," she said.
Kerry Kennedy, whose father Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in 1968 during his presidential campaign, stood alongside Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the civil rights activist, at the event.
"We passed the Gun Control Act of 1968 for my father, my uncle, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X," she said, with a photo of her dad on the podium. "Surely we can pass a Gun Control Act of 2013 for the 20 children who lost their lives in Newtown, the school officials who died defending them and all of the Americans who had to die by a gun before we took action."
Dr. Michael Nance, a pediatric and trauma surgeon with the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, said he frequently operates on children with gunshot wounds.
"Perhaps the most challenging aspect is to look in the eye of a distraught parent and say 'I'm sorry, I've done everything I can do, but it wasn't enough'," he said. "I would urge our legislators to ask the question of themselves regarding gun violence, whether they can look in the face of a parent and say 'I've done everything I can within my power to help'."
they would not be celebrities if guns had not kept this country free!
Its not a matter of guns, its a matter of the right to protect one's self from harm–whether that harm come from the government, or from other criminals. If criminals use guns, why can't law-abiding citizens be able to defend themselves equally?
The largest group, the silent majority, has spoken up. That silent majority isn't interested in keeping cushy voter elected jobs. The silent majority isn't interested in you spending money to see their movies or concerts. They're interested in their families, careers, bills, churches, etc. They're interested in making their communities better places. They're interested in schools, hospitals, human rights. They also own firearms. They're interested in their freedoms, which they aren't abusing. They'd like to be left alone. They're coming under fire for something they did not do. But, they are making their stand. I'm with them.
I appreciate both sides of the argument, but am fearfull of those that would let public opinion of the moment dictate that course for the future. Please al least do some research and add to your reading another celebrity's response on the subject. On September 17 of 1999, Mr Charlton Heason made a impassioned speach to the National Press Club. His points still ring true today. He was a personna with the gravitas to put forward his opinion and support even when it was unpopular and potential career suicide. Please take a moment to read his comments on the web and weigh this thought. No government entity that took something away from the governed ever volutarily gave it back. Before you abrogate our rights, be sure you understand the consequences of taking them away. Be sure you understand how those who seize power for themselves and abuse the most noble of intentions and then ask your sellf if you ever met a polititian that you really trusted enough to put your life in their hands. Instead of legislating ,we all should try parenting, try teaching our childeren to act responsilby, and to take resoponsiblity and the consequeces for their actions and most of all teach them the golden rule. It is the one rule of social convention that has stood the test of time for thousands of years regardless of what faith you or your neighbor practices. Kindness makes a difference. Then follow your heart and diregard what any so called "celebrity" puts forth. Please make up your own minds and grant me the right to make up mine.
Amanda Peet is considered a valid source on this subject? Give me a break...
CNN, you just aren't what you once where, which was good at your reporting, not any more you have become a TNN – Tabloid News Network and I sure hope you all do something about it.
@Lynda- Guns most certainly do NOT kill. A gun is an inanimate object. I've got about 30 assorted weapons in my gun safe downstairs that I'm pretty sure are not going off right now. That's because they require a person to pull the trigger. Saying that guns kill is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.
I agree with Tony Bennett. In Canada and England how many people get killed in total or with gun violence? The number is very low even if compare the averages because they have banned on firearms.
Reagan was an actor wasn't he?
Dutch/Bad Newz, VA
So did Chris Rock treat George W. Bush like he was his father? Just another left wing hypocrite.
----------------–George was an irresponsible parent who allowed an attack on the homeland and watched a major American flood while he flied overheard on AF1. If he was our daddy, he should be locked up for child neglect.
Let's not forget sending his innocent "children": off to a manufactured and convenient war to kill and be killed.
Somebody shoudl've had the decency to call the Bureau of Child Welfare on the Crawford village idiot.
Some people should not be allowed to become "parents".
Right on Dutch!!!!
"I say we have an IQ test to be eligble for freedom of speech...that would quiet the ignorant."
You just failed it.
Keep speaking up, Celebrities. Keep the pressure on. Minds are changing as we speak. Thank you for your courage against all the hate and anger here and elsewhere. Just know that so many more agree with you than disagree with you. America is at a turning point on this issue and you are helping.
The mental ill's names will never be entered in a computer to be part of a back ground check because the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) act of 1996 makes it illegal. The NRA tried to get this accomplished 20 years ago.. it did not happen then and now with HIPAA it still won't happen.
are these the same celebrities that srat in movies with overwhelming gun violence? same old hypocritical hollywood losers....
Gutless congress will cave into the NRA extremism, as usual. Money talks. the NRA has the best legislators money can buy, and unlimited funding from gunmakers.
The last person I want to tell me how to run our lives are Hollywood celebrities. What qualifies you except that may act . Give me a break.
KW, Amanda Peet is a person who could walk out in the street and get gunned down on a moment's notice – just like the rest of us. That's all the expertise any of us needs to be able to comment on the subject. It's our country and our lives and we can speak out as loud as we like.
How do celebrities pressure congress? How is their opinion more relevant or important then any other citizen? That's the same relevance as "Millionaires pressure congress to act" or "Baseball players urge congress to act". Seriously, congress thinks our entertainers are the people that represent the majority of the US?
Does it mean celebrities will give up their armed bodyguards. Lets start disarming celebrities first. And then will talk
...."Be sure you understand how those who seize power for themselves and abuse the most noble of intentions and then ask your sellf if you ever met a polititian that you really trusted enough to put your life in their hands...."
Point well taken. However, I'll trust politicians attempting to stem the slaughter over lobbyists trying to sell more guns, and undermine the public's safety.
As for Mr. Heston- he made that impassioned speech fully in the throws of Alzheimers- possibly creating a real link between gun lust and mental illness.
IronMike said, "they would not be celebrities if guns had not kept this country free!" – sorry, IronMike, but the last time I read American History, it was our armies who kept us free, not Suburban Gun Owner. Now, if you are saying we should allow our armies to keep their guns, then I'm all for that. And it's amazing, when you actually read history, how many kings were overthrown BEFORE guns were invented. And if you're going to bring up the militia,spare us all your kool-aid fueled spewage – when America was fighting for it's freedom, the army that was here was the King's Army.
Celebrities are stupid.I'm sick of hearing there opinions.
Since the celebrities are behind stiff gun control laws and some of them like Arnold Swartzenager --Slyvester Stallon–and others who have been a part of violent movies maybe they should donate into a fund for advertisement--don't do what you have seen me do in the movies-don't try to become "ME" take on my identity such was the case in THE JOKER!
Reagan was an actor wasn't he?
Indeed, a pretty poor one with great movies like "Bedtime for Bonzo" to his credit.