Obama made it clear he does not expect gun laws to change during his remaining year in office, but pledged to do what he can to make gun control a theme in the months leading up to the November election to replace him.

In a powerful address in the White House, surrounded by family members of people killed in shootings, Obama's voice rose to a yell as he said the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms needed to be balanced by the right to worship, gather peacefully and live their lives.

Obama has often said his toughest time in office was grappling with the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," Obama said, tears rolling down his cheek.    

"That changed me, that day," he said, after being introduced by Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son was killed in the shooting. "My hope earnestly has been that it would change the country," the President cited.

After that tragedy, the Democratic president failed to persuade Congress to toughen US gun laws. He has blamed lawmakers for being in the thrall of the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby group.

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