WASHINGTON — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, joined by the Newtown, Conn., school’s chief and the mother of a victim in the Gabby Giffords shooting spree called for immediate congressional action to increase gun restrictions Wednesday shortly after President Barack Obama announced an expansive gun control plan.

“Today, leaders of the House Democratic Caucus have come together … to confront the challenges that gun violence has on our society, to act and ensure the safety and security of our community,” Pelosi said.

The meeting of the caucus featured a panel including Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Emily Nottingham, mother of Tucson shooting victim Gabe Zimmerman, Chief Scott Knight of the Chaska, Minn., Police Department and Dr. Janet Robinson, superintendent of schools in Newtown, Conn.

They all supported Obama’s gun control proposals, which include universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, improvement of mental health treatment and increase in school safety.

“This is the first time … since President Clinton, that I actually have real hope that we can get something done to save lives,” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., said.

Although Obama’s proposal includes 23 actions he can execute without congressional approval, the hearing’s speakers encouraged immediate action from officials and citizens alike.

Pelosi introduced Robinson, who worked closely with Newtown victims, as “an expert on the price of inaction.”

In her testimony to the Democratic caucus, Robinson read a letter written by a young girl from Connecticut asking the president to increase gun safety. Robinson said the girl started a petition online but took it down because police were concerned for her safety.

“What everyone from Newtown wants is for you to ban semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity magazines, and to make everyone use guns safely,” she read from the letter.

Nottingham said she wanted to encourage gun control supporters to strengthen their resolve in the face of opposition.

“When you are disheartened by the number of steps that have to be taken, by the fears of gun advocates, by the politics, please dig deep and find your heart,” Nottingham said.

The panelists also countered several arguments raised by opponents of gun control, like the NRA, which has suggested increasing armed security in schools will keep children safe. Nutter’s denouncement of the NRA’s controversial advertisement depicting Obama’s children, calling it “disgusting” and “outside the bonds of human dignity,” was met with loud applause.

Nutter said passing tougher gun laws should be the immediate goal, but it isn’t the only thing the nation needs.

“We need to reverse the culture of violence in our nation,” he said. “The time for action is now.”