A relative wipes away tears as she holds up a picture of gun violence victim Justin Murray during President Barack Obama's discussion of gun control legislation in Washington.

Washington - Victims of shooting violence deserve to see lawmakers vote on bills proposing tougher gun laws, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday, after a spate of massacres across the United States.

“I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different,” Obama told lawmakers in his State of the Union address. “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.”

The president made his plea to a chamber filled not only with lawmakers and government officials but also gun violence victims and relatives - including the parents of Chicago shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton, who performed at Obama's inaugural parade just days before she was gunned down.

“Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration,” Obama said in paying tribute to the 15-year-old. “And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just 1.6 kilometres away from my house.”

Obama, in urging Congress to act, also referenced the December 14 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 young schoolchildren and six adults.

Also in the crowd was Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head at a mass shooting two years ago in her Arizona district.

Obama said overwhelming majorities of Americans had united around “common sense reforms” such as background checks for gun purchases and noted that senators from both parties were working together on new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals.

“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,” he said.

“Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress,” Obama said. “Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun.” - AFP