Obama asks Newtown mum to deliver his weekly address

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Barack Obama has asked a mother whose 6-year-old son was killed in the Newtown, Connecticut massacre to deliver his weekly radio address, an unusual move expected to turn up the pressure on Congress to pass tougher gun control laws.

Mrs Francine Wheeler, whose son Ben was one of the 26 people killed by a gunman at an elementary school on Dec 14, will deliver the Saturday radio address, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Mr Obama brought families of the Newtown victims to Washington on Air Force One on Monday, and they have been meeting with senators to urge them to support new laws that, among other measures, would require more background checks for gun sales.

"He believes their voices and resolve have been critical to the continued progress we've seen in the Senate," Mr Carney said.

Vice-President Joe Biden has occasionally delivered the weekly address, but the short message to Americans is traditionally given by the president himself.

Mr Obama and Mr Biden have repeatedly urged Americans to call their senators and representatives to express their views on gun violence.

The Wheelers and other Newtown families met on Wednesday with United States (US) Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and strong supporter of gun rights, who was moved to tears by their stories.

Mr Manchin, of West Virginia, reached a breakthrough deal this week with Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on background checks.

But the legislation faces weeks of expected debate in the Senate.

"This process is still very much in its early stages," Mr Carney said, noting "the other chamber" - the Republican-led House of Representatives - has yet to look at the legislation.

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