The White House is counting on a powerful combination of emotion and state legislative action to prod Congress to break with the gun lobby and accept at least some of the gun-control measures President Obama proposed in the wake of the Newtown shooting.
It is no accident that Monday will find the president in Connecticut, the scene of that shooting, only a few days after he visited Colorado, where 12 people were killed and 58 wounded when another gunman opened fire in a crowded theater in July.
With the memories of those two shootings still fresh in the minds of most Americans, the emotion is guaranteed. Family members of victims, survivors, and heart-rending photos of victims can be counted on. And it is clear that when he is in those two states, the president himself is moved. He has called the Newtown shooting the worst day of his presidency and it is easy to tell that the emotional scars have not yet healed.
But emotion is not enough to drive the Washington debate forward.
In the months since the shootings, the National Rifle Association has weathered the initial storm and gained momentum in its opposition to the president's proposals. Republicans fear the NRA's clout far more than they fear disappointing the parents of a child slain before reaching second grade.
The White House understands that. So expect the president on Monday to point to what the Connecticut Legislature has done under the watchful eye of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. In signing a new package of gun-control measures into law this week, Malloy boasted that he and a bipartisan group of lawmakers "have come together in a new way that relatively few places in our nation have demonstrated an ability to do."
The president hopes the example can help Washington become another such place. On Wednesday in Denver, he praised Colorado for striking the right balance with laws to keep guns way from those who should not have them, while protecting the citizenry's right to bear arms. In Connecticut, the new laws limit the size of gun magazines to 10 rounds, expand the state's assault-weapons ban, and close loopholes in background checks, requiring them for all gun sales in the state.
In many ways, these measures duplicate what the president is trying to do on a federal level. But the opposition has been better organized and more effective in Washington than it was in either Denver or Hartford. At least five conservative senators have pledged to filibuster the gun bills, ignoring the president's plea to at least allow an up-or-down vote. And the Republican-controlled House has shown little appetite for anything that could be cast as a weakening of the Second Amendment.
With the Easter Recess over, though, the White House hopes to ratchet up the pressure on the issue this week. Press Secretary Jay Carney promised that the president, Vice President Joe Biden, and first lady Michelle Obama will be holding high-profile events "to make their voices heard in this important debate."
In Hartford on Monday, Carney said, the president will meet again with families affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School before giving a speech "reminding members of Congress that those who have been most affected by tragic gun violence deserve a vote on the measures currently being considered."
When the president returns to Washington and turns his attention to the budget he will release on Wednesday, the vacuum will be filled by Biden, who will host a Tuesday event at the White House with law-enforcement officials who support the administration's gun package.
On Wednesday, it will be Michelle Obama's turn. Returning to her hometown of Chicago, a city suffering from considerable gun violence, she will speak about the impact of guns on young people, stressing the importance of "allowing them to grow up in safe, violence-free communities," Carney said.
Then, on Thursday, Biden will participate in a roundtable discussion of guns on MSNBC's Morning Joe.