He was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Obama circled back to that shooting in the final moments of his speech.
“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said, pausing to wipe away tears.
He added: “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” referring to his hometown where he began his political career.
The White House is introducing a new requirement that would expand background checks for buyers. The measure mandates that individuals “in the business of selling firearms” register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.
Former Congresswoman and gun control advocate Gabby Giffords, who was seriously injured in a 2011 mass shooting, was also in attendance at Tuesday’s event and was greeted with a standing ovation from the White House audience.