US & Canada

Sandy Hook mother replaces Obama for guns radio address

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Media captionFrancine Wheeler: "Please help us do something before our tragedy becomes your tragedy"

The mother of a victim of last year's Sandy Hook shootings has replaced Barack Obama to deliver the weekly US presidential radio address.

Francine Wheeler, whose six-year-old son Ben was killed, used the nationally-broadcast statement to call for tighter gun controls.

Asking a citizen to deliver the weekly address is a highly unusual move.

It comes as President Obama attempts to ratchet up pressure on the US Congress, which is due to debate new gun laws.

In an often emotional statement, Ms Wheeler recalled waiting for her son to return home following the shootings, and said the "tidal wave of anguish" resulting from that day had yet to recede.

She said new gun laws were needed to prevent more deaths.

"We have to convince the Senate to come together and pass commonsense gun responsibility reforms that will make our communities safer and prevent more tragedies like the one we never thought would happen to us," she said.

'The right thing'

Ms Wheeler's son Ben was killed along with 19 other children and six staff when 20-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire at his elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The address was broadcast on radio and released as a video online.

This week senators are due to debate new laws that will extend background checks to gun sales made at gun shows and over the internet.

The measures are the result of a bipartisan deal struck between Republican and Democrat senators last week.

Senators later voted to debate the legislation, but no new laws have yet been passed.

A White House call for a ban on assault weapons and a limit to the capacity of ammunition magazines that can be sold has not gained traction among lawmakers.

In a statement President Obama said Ms Wheeler's message was one that "every American should hear".

"This shouldn't be about politics," he said. "This is about doing the right thing for families that have been torn apart by gun violence, and for all our families going forward."

The BBC's David Willis in Washington says the influence of America's gun lobby in Washington remains strong, and means the measures being discussed are by no means certain to become law.