February 6th, 2013
01:07 PM ET
10 years ago

Celebrities pressure Congress to act

(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'."

Filed under: Congress • Gun control • Gun rights
soundoff (100 Responses)
  1. Bill Bixby

    So did Chris Rock treat George W. Bush like he was his father? Just another left wing hypocrite.

    February 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. Excitizen

    much thunder......hope you feel the same about good'ol Teddy Nugent! Hate goes both ways and doesn't do a single thing to solve the problem. At least they aren't being completely rediculous and fighting for armed guards in every school! Do you offer any reasonable solutions to the problem or just 5 year old name calling?

    February 6, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. PureVT

    Lets focus on the Root Cause's to gun violence, if you look at mass murders, slightly less than half were with a weapon on the proposed ban list(see fbi stats), and even then, they only account for some of the deaths. Lets fix the mental health in this country, lets punish the criminals, lets keep the guns of of the hands of those people, the ones committing the crimes. Some of the most shocking mass murders no gun was even used. Do we focus on cars for DWI? do we focus on needles for overdose deaths? we do not, so why focus on guns? they are not the cause, only the tool used.

    February 6, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    The trouble is........none of these people are addressing the root problem........which is mental illness running around on our streets.

    That makes their opinions meaningless.......because they don't even have the analytical ability to determine what the real problem is.

    February 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  5. Ancient Texan

    Tony Bennett doesn't know an assault weapn from a microphone. He thinks every long gun is a military weapon that spews hundreds of rounds a minute.

    February 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. nufsed

    'Opponents say such a ban would do little to prevent gun violence, citing statistics that show most shootings come from handguns, not assault weapons.

    Actually, both Obama and BIden admitted that it wouldn't do much either. Lots of rhetoric about an "assault weapons" ban that won't do much, and 'universal background checks' that don't catch crazies. (Read the GAO report 12-684)

    Fix the NICS database (law is in place, and even NRA supports that), prosecute people for attempting to purchase guns illegally instead of saying you're understaffed, and THEN come talk to me about making new laws.

    February 6, 2013 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  7. jestanle

    Why should we care what empty headed celebrities think?

    February 6, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  8. Mike

    Don't care which side of the fence a "celebrity" is on, why should they be heard any more than the average citizen? They're humans too, and those who wear pants probably put them on one leg at a time just like I do.

    February 6, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  9. actors love guns...

    would love to see a list of actors with concealed permits for their guns! lol AND I hope every actor who stood up today against guns from this day forward will REFUSE to work on a movie with gun violence in it... think they will?? I bet not.

    February 6, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  10. Patines

    Good for you guys. Use the power of your celebrity to do something positive.

    February 6, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    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.
    Well now I guess it is time for you to start videotaping you and your significant other so you canhave something to watch as most of the hollywood community is on board with ending the violence and this President.

    February 6, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  12. rad666

    Are they the same celebrities that are in violent movies or sing songs with violent lyrics?

    February 6, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. just askin

    so are all of the body guards of these celebrities totally unarmed? of course not. but they want to keep the peons defenseless.

    February 6, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Greg

    0 guns = 0 gun-related deaths.

    February 6, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  15. Kevin

    I haven't gotten over Sandy Hook either. But I do know that the shooter used 4 handguns and the AR-15 was left in the trunk of his car.

    February 6, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. Levi

    This is ridiculous. Guns are not the problem. Letting criminals have guns and be free is the problem. Criminals, by definition, break the law. They do that with anything.

    Criminals use cars to run people over or to drive to and from crimes and in bank robberies – should we ban people from having cars?

    Criminals use lights for use of illicit drugs – should we ban people from using fire?

    Criminals use the internet for identity theft, fraud and other crimes – should we ban computers?

    While some of those arguments may seem extreme, they are just as extreme as banning guns and preventing law abiding citizens the right to own them. What we need to do is prevent criminals and mentally ill people from the ability to have guns. We need to prevent criminals, especially repeat offenders, from being able to move in next door to innocent, law abiding citizens who immediately become endangered.

    February 6, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. BG

    A lot can be done that doesn't "infringe" on the 2nd ammendment – universal background checks which include any history of mental illness submitted by police and psychologists, smaller ammunition clips. We don't need any new laws, we just need the laws enforced and the consequences of breaking our laws to be tougher. I think we still have a 'jobs' problem, so why not create more jobs in the security field and have an armed officer at each school. No need to ban any kind/style of firearm

    February 6, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC


    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.
    You need to re-read "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand, and "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx. You will discover that they are two works describing the same thing, imperialist capitalism and solipsism. Those disciplines are the true foundation of today's neo-conservatism.

    February 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. Tom Sizzle

    Only an idiot would support banning a tool instead of address the holder of that tool.

    February 6, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "Are they the same celebrities that are in violent movies or sing songs with violent lyrics?"

    Yes. I can't count how many tmies I've heard Tony Bennet sing about pimpslappin' some hoes after pealing back someone's dome with his Glock.

    Grow up.

    February 6, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  21. NCMichael

    I appreciate the position of these celebrities. Even if I oppose their position, I appreciate that they are using their celebrity for more than just promoting a movie or their latest album. Here are a couple facts. The SCOTUS has said that handguns are covered under the 2nd amendment. They have told the legislature hands off. The police commissioner of New York City said that assault weapons make up less than 2% of gun crimes in the United States. So, since there are about 10K gun crime deaths a year (an additional 20K gun deaths by suicide also happen). So, all of this is happening over about 200 deaths a year. Really? More importantly, put it in perspective, high capacity semi automatic weapons have been available for over 70 years. The AR-15 has been sold to the public since 1963. Violent crime is down 48% over the last 10 years. But we are going to try and remove assault weapons, a class of the most legally owned least used in crime weapons from our citizens now? This isn't about kids dying. This is about our rights. I appreciate the puppets want to help. The puppets just need to look at the facts before they do.

    February 6, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    "Yeah, and these same "stars" use bodyguards with guns to protect them".
    So does Wayne LaPierre.

    February 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. K from AZ

    How disconnected do you have to be from reality to believe tightening restrictions on people who already obey the law will somehow restrain people who couldn't care less about the law? Like the celebrities, a lot!

    February 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. ER

    Just give it up already. I am more liberal than anything else, but for eff's sake just give it up. Can't we see this is going no where? Are we really blaming an object that 99% of people who own use with respect and don't abuse?

    February 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    "But I do know that the shooter used 4 handguns and the AR-15 was left in the trunk of his car."

    It's impossible for you to "know" that because it's not true. It's is indisputable and the Newtown police confirmed that he used the AR-15 Bushmaster to kill those 20 children and 6 adults. You "believe" it, and you're entitled to that, but it's not "knowledge" unless it's true.

    February 6, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
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