Obama honors cops, renews push for stronger gun laws

President Obama speaks at an event honoring the 2013 National Association of Police Organizations TOP COPS award winners in the East Room of the White House May 11, 2013, in Washington.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Obama paid tribute to the National Association of Police Organizations' "Top Cops" of 2013 at the White House Saturday, saying the law enforcement officers "represent the best of us and deserve the best from us."

At the event, the president also reiterated his push for tougher gun laws, which has seemed to ebb in the wake of last month's legislative defeat of a proposal that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers.

Mr. Obama called for "common-sense steps that protect our rights, and protect our children, and protect officers in the line of duty by making it harder for dangerous criminals to get their hands on lethal weapons."

In his initial push for stronger gun laws, undertaken after a December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, the president tried to corral law enforcement groups behind his proposals. While some groups, including the Major Cities Chiefs Association, were largely supportive, other law enforcement organizations dissented.

On Saturday, the president also recognized the heroism of law enforcement officers and first responders who sprang into action after the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured over 260 more.

"Just a few weeks ago," he said, "our entire country saw once again the strong stuff that these men and women are made of - police officers, first responders who were running towards explosions not knowing if there was something more on the way, law enforcement from different agencies and different parts of the country working together as one united team to identify suspects and bring them to justice."

"We don't always get that opportunity to stand and applaud the men and women who keep us safe," he added. "But they're out there. Hundreds of thousands of you, patrolling our streets every single day. We know that when we need you most, you'll be ready to dash into danger, to protect our lives even if it means putting your lives on the line. That's what these folks are all about."

The president also cited the example of Brian Murphy, a police officer in Wisconsin who was the first to arrive at a Sikh Temple in the wake of a shooting rampage there last August. Murphy sprang into action, keeping the shooter contained until help arrived "even though he was lying there bleeding from 12 bullet wounds."

When Murphy was asked how he managed that feat of bravery, Mr. Obama recalled, he responded, "That's just the way we're made."

And in light of heroic stories like that and countless other unsung heroes, the president said, "The rest of us should just be able to summon some tiny fraction of courage and the same sense of responsibility."

"And that certainly applies for those of us responsible for supporting law enforcement and first responders here in Washington," he added, gently chiding the nation's oft-dysfunctional capital.

"Even during tough economic times," he said, "we've got to make sure they've got the resources they need."