February 5, 2013

Obama stands firm on gun control despite long odds

Julie Pace and Nedra Pickler / The Associated Press

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President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his gun violence proposals on Monday at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center in Minneapolis, where he outlined his plan before law enforcement personnel.

AP

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Obama also was more upbeat on the prospects of universal background checks, including for purchases at gun shows.

"The good news is that we're starting to see a consensus emerge about the action Congress needs to take," he said. "The vast majority of Americans, including a majority of gun owners, support requiring criminal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun. There's no reason why we can't get that done."

He urged Americans to call their members of Congress to push for his entire package of stronger gun controls. "Tell them now is the time for action."

"Changing the status quo is never easy," Obama said. "This will be no exception. The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it's important, if you decide it's important, if parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say, this time, it's got to be different. We've suffered too much pain to stand by and do nothing."

The White House says Obama is not writing off any part of his package despite the long odds for the assault weapons ban in particular before votes are scheduled or he takes his arguments on the road. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has been helping push the gun control package, said he and Obama spoke on the matter Sunday and agreed that Washington in a vacuum is unlikely to move quickly.

"If this is Washington trying to drive this by itself, it doesn't go very far," Duncan said at a meeting with college presidents who have signed on to help lobby Congress to take action to protect students.

The White House said Obama made his maiden trip on the gun control package to Minneapolis because the city has taken steps to tackle gun violence, including a push for stricter background checks. The city launched a program in 2008 aimed at providing more resources for at-risk youth and helping rehabilitate young people who have already committed crimes.

In January, Minneapolis also hosted a regional summit on gun violence for elected officials from around the Midwest. The county's sheriff, Richard Stanek, is a Republican who has been working with the White House to develop a palatable set of gun regulations, with a particular focus on strengthening background checks.

Ahead of Monday's trip, the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David, the presidential retreat, which prompted more question about the president's experience with guns. White House press secretary Jay Carney said he was not aware of Obama personally owning any firearms. He said Obama has shot a gun elsewhere, although he didn't know when or if he had done so- before becoming president. "He never intended to suggest he had grown up as a hunter," Carney said.

Asked whether the president shoots skeet or trap, Carney told reporters, "I'm not an expert, and I don't think he would claim to be either." But he said of the president's shooting skill, "I think he has gotten better."

On Tuesday, four House members — two Republicans and two Democrats — planned to announce bipartisan legislation making gun trafficking a federal crime and strengthening penalties against people who legally buy firearms but give them to others who are barred from purchasing them, such as felons.

House GOP leaders have sent no signals that they intend to move imminently on gun legislation.

"The committees of jurisdiction will look at the issues surrounding violence in our society. And when the Senate produces a bill, we'll take a look at it," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

 

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