(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'."
chris rock...have you ever heard his show....please....dont spill hate and race and now act like your for a this gun control....
Newtown is still fresh in our memories and we're not going to sweep the issue under the rug. Chris Rock made a funny comment, however, it's so true. You don't want to have one of those "I told you so" moments. That being said, I find it very disappointing & appauling that the media fails to report on the 107 kids that were killed in Chicago last year. Where's America's weeping souls for them?
I fully support background checks for all gun purchases.
The vapid are heard from again– must have been a break from the drugs and alacohol.
Chris Rock says that we need to listen to the President because he is our boss. I say no. He is our employee. That is the way the system works. He listens to us.
Chris Rock? Seriously? One of the most racist "celebrities" out there? ya ill listen to him for sure. He has ZERO credibility. ZERO!
Yeah, and these same "stars" use bodyguards with guns to protect them. Makes sense.
I always knew Tony Bennett was a commie socialist pinko America hater. He even paints pictures, how elitist liberal left-wing is that?
Who cares what the celebrities have to say. They are citizens as well. Guns are here to stay.
I get tired of the celebrities even being involved in politics period... it is like their word and opinion is more important than ours. Not all but a huge majority of them are a bunch of over paid idiots.. and like Ron White ...you can't fix stupid!
Why isn't Chris Rock in Chicago calling attention to all the black on black violence and murders??? Keep your hands off of the Constitutional rights of law abiding citizens and go after the real problem, criminals and mental patients.
Hope our Senators and Congressmen listens to common men. Hope they are not sold out to NRA and the Gun lobby.
celebrities pay taxes and are Americans too. So they should have a say if they want and if they can use their position so what. If the celeb is a republican no one complains. Grow up
Republicans need to practice what they preach by listening to the will of The People, instead of the NRA. All of this argument about hurting "law abiding citizens" is pure nonsense. We have traffic laws that affect all "law abiding citizens". If we did not have traffic laws, then there would be a lot more traffic deaths that what we have now.
Good use of fame. Thanks to the celebrities who chose to use it in this way.
“If anyone says that the best life of all is to sail the sea, and then adds that I must not sail upon a sea where shipwrecks are a common occurrence and there are often sudden storms that sweep the helmsman in an adverse direction, I conclude that this man, although he lauds navigation, really forbids me to launch my ship.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters
The Country was doing great till the GAYS,LIBERALS,ATHEIST and the Hollywood ELITE got out of the Closet and starting BULLYING people into to THEIR WAY OF LIFE.....Time for them to get back into their closet.
You People need to read up on "THE COMMUNIST and DEMOCRATIC GOALS of 1958.
it will enlighten you as to why we HAVE MORALLY DECAYED in this country today and THEY have the RIGHT PRESIDENT to help with their cause.
LOL! and the most common "celebrity" has an IQ of nothing! LOL!
"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." People clearly have not been listening. They voted this guy into office twice and sooner than later we're all going to feel that bite in the ass.
Well now we know who not to support at the movies. Back in the day communists were ostricized in hollywood now they seem to be rampant.
The whole nation should come together on this "gun"issue. Those assault machines belong in the battlefield not on schools grounds. Let us correct this right now. We owe it to those little boys and girls of Newtown who were murdered in front of us.
More than 1,600 Americans killed by guns since Dec. 14, 2012. It is time to end the carnage.
The mom and dad of the country???? My stomach hurts from laughing. Did they legalize crack in Hollywood?
oh well if celebrities are against guns then i guess i am too now.
so they gonna stop promoting them in all their movies now right?
Why is someone able to pass a death sentence for a purse being stole. In Iran they cut off a hand of a burgler and we say it's barbaric. Here someone can shoot them dead and it's called a right.