HARTFORD - President Barack Obama made an impassioned plea today for citizens to contact their legislators and demand action on gun control, saying he's as "determined as ever" to pass tougher measures.

Speaking at the University of Hartford before a crowd that included families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, the president said the contentious debate over gun control measures "shouldn't be about politics."

He singled out Republican lawmakers who want to use procedural maneuvers to block legislation, arguing that such a move would be akin to saying that public opinion doesn't matter.

The president was introduced to the crowd by a woman whose son was among the 20 young children who were killed in the Newtown shooting in December. Six adults were also killed at the school.

"If you're an American who wants to do something to prevent more families from knowing the immeasurable anguish that these families know, now is the time to act," Obama said. "Now is the time to get engaged, to get involved, to push back on fear, frustration, and misinformation. Now is the time to make your voice heard from every state house to the corridors of Congress."

Obama met privately with families of the victims before his speech, then planned to bring 11 family members back to Washington with him aboard Air Force One. They want to meet with senators who have yet to back the legislation and to encourage their support in memory of their loved ones.

AP wire services contributed to this report.