Connecticut's tragic school shooting played a part in President Barack Obama's State of the Union Tuesday night — both in his address itself and in the presence of Newtown residents in the audience.
"The families of Newtown deserve a vote," he said, asking for representation for victims of gun violence, as some from Newtown watched in the audience at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Several Newtown residents attended the address as guests of Congress members. First Selectman Pat Llodra was present, the guest of Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy. In an open letter to the town prior to her attendance, Llodra said she accepted the invitation "because of the kindness and support that all of our elected officials, at all levels of government, have shown for our community."
In addition, teacher Natalie Hammond, who was injured in the shooting, appeared as a guest of Rep. Elizabeth Esty. Sandy Hook teacher Kaitlin Roig, who hid 15 first-grade students in a bathroom during the shooting, also appeared as the guest of Jill Biden, the Danbury News-Times reported.
Obama, who visited town shortly after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, used the event to highlight calls for change in gun laws.
"This time is different," he said. "Overwhelming majorities of Americans — Americans who believe in the 2nd Amendment — have come together around commonsense reform — like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun."
After the shooting, President Obama called for new legislation, including universal background checks and a ban on high-powered weapons.
"Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals," he said in his address. "Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned."
One such police chief is Newtown's Michael Kehoe, who has called for an assault weapons ban.
"We never like to think we're outgunned in any situation we're dealing with," he told NBC News.