In the wake of several mass shootings, President Barack Obama made gun violence a major point of his State of the Union address. He demanded that Congress allow votes, up or down, on his proposals.

During the State of the Union, one of the most emotional moments came when Obama discussed the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. A gun control debate is nothing new, he noted, but the  Newtown slaughter spurred many to join together and seek reforms. “Overwhelming majorities of Americans – Americans who believe in the Second Amendment – have come together around common-sense reform – like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun,” he said.

Obama cited one of the less contentious proposals being discussed by Republican and Democratic senators, to prevent purchasing guns to resale to criminals. 

Seeking to maintain the sense of urgency, the president said, “Because 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.” He went  on to mention the parents of Hadiya Pendleton, who was murdered in Chicago just a weeks after performing at the inauguration, as well as Gabby Giffords, the people of Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis.; Tucson, Ariz., and Blacksburg, Va., and declared that they all “deserve a vote.”

Legislation “will not prevent every senseless act of violence in this country,” he said, but the gun violence issue is not about perfection or idealism, it’s about making a difference and with gun violence, that difference can save countless lives.