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President Obama demands Congress vote on gun reform

President Obama delivers his State of the Union address. Photo: Reuters

The President's overwhelming concern is the fragile health of the American economy. That was reflected in his State of the Union speech overnight. No surprise there.

The Obama Presidency will be judged by whether it can kick-start American growth and restore jobs to the heartland.

But the most emotional plea was a direct response to the Sandy Hook school massacre. Many of the Congressmen and women listening were wearing green ribbons, the colour of the Newtown primary school.

Former US Representative Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly listen to President Obama. Credit: Reuters

Gabby Giffords was in the gallery, along with many other victims and witnesses to the terror of guns.

The President demanded that Congress vote on gun reform, even though he knows radical steps will never pass a Republican controlled House of Representatives.

He made it personal:

In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

One of those we lost was a young girl named Hadiya Pendleton. She was 15 years old.

Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration.

And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.

Pendleton's parents were watching from the gallery.

The parents of Hadiya Pendleton, Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton, sit with Michelle Obama. Credit: EBU

It was an powerful attempt to pursue common sense reform.

But don't hold your breath. America is suffering an epidemic of gun violence but the politics of weapons are almost impossible. Many Democrats and almost all Republicans won't support a ban on assault weapons or restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

This was the President's fourth State of the Union address. There were 78 interruptions for applause.

But the reality is that it is unlikely to change America. And it certainly won't succeed in changing the dreadful trajectory of gun violence.

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