January 15, 2013

Obama takes aim against assault weapons

The president will unveil a broad plan to curb gun violence and expects a showdown with Congress.

By JULIE PACE / The Associated Press

Jimmy Greene, Nicole Hockley, Nelba M·rquez-Greene
click image to enlarge

Jimmy Greene, foreground left, Nelba Marquez-Greene, center, parents of Sandy Hook shooting victim Ana Marquez-Greene, and Nicole Hockley, right, mother of victim Dylan Hockley, react during a Monday news conference in Newtown, Conn.

The Associated Press

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POLL NOTES INCREASED CONCERN OVER VIOLENCE, SUPPORT FOR TIGHTER GUN LAWS

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll:

More than half of all Americans – 52 percent in the new poll – say the Newtown, Conn., shootings made them more supportive of gun control; just 5 percent say they are now less apt to back tighter restrictions.

Most also are at least somewhat worried about a mass shooting in their own community, with concern jumping to 65 percent among those with school-age children at home.

44 percent of all Americans say there is at least one gun at home. Only 15 percent of those in gun households say the administration and Congress should put top priority on stricter laws.

Still, 86 percent of those in households with guns support background checks at gun shows (86 percent), background checks on ammunition purchases (76 percent), a new federal guns database (62 percent) and a nationwide ban on high-capacity clips (55 percent).

55 percent of the public support placing armed police or trained security guards at the nation's 100,000 schools.

71 percent of all Americans favor establishing a database tracking all gun sales; 65 percent favor a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips. Some 51 percent support a ban on semi-automatic handguns.

Overall, 56 percent see inadequate treatment of those with mental illness contributes "a great deal" to gun violence, and the same percentage blames insufficient background checks as a major cause. Next up is a lack of individual responsibility among gun owners. Fewer – 38 percent – see violent movies, television and video games as playing a big role.

This poll was conducted Jan. 10 to 13, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama endorsed controversial bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines on Monday, as well as stricter background checks for gun buyers -- but conceded he may not win approval of all in a Congress reluctant to tighten restrictions.

"Will all of them get through this Congress? I don't know," said Obama. He said lawmakers would have to "examine their own conscience" as they tackle gun control legislation after the horrifying Connecticut school shootings but in the face of opposition from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun rights groups.

Obama spoke at a midday White House news conference one month after the Newtown elementary school rampage, which ignited a national discussion on preventing mass shootings.

The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden's gun task force and is expected to include both legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself using his presidential powers.

But the most sweeping and contentious elements – including an assault weapons ban – will require approval from a Congress that has been loath to tackle gun control legislation for more than a decade. The politically powerful NRA has vowed to fight any measure that would limit access to guns and ammunition, a hardline position that could sway some Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Despite the opposition, Obama said he would "vigorously pursue" measures to tighten gun laws.

"My starting point is not to worry about the politics," he said.

The president's new resolve follows a lack of movement in tackling gun violence throughout much of his first term, despite several high-profile shootings. He called the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School the worst day of his presidency and vowed to take action.

Parents of the slain Connecticut children added their voices to the national dialogue Monday. Members of the newly formed group Sandy Hook Promise called for an open-minded discussion about a range of issues, including guns, mental health and safety in schools and other public places.

And lawmakers in New York state pressed ahead with what would be the nation's first gun control measure approved since the school shootings. Among the items in a tentative agreement in the state Legislature are further restrictions on the state's ban on assault weapons, limits on the size of magazines to seven bullets, down from the current 10, and more stringent background checks for sales.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals through Congress. Several pro-gun rights lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Rep. Jack Kingston of Georgia, said in the days following the shooting that they were open to discussing possible control measures.

Seeking to keep up the pressure on lawmakers, Obama said Monday that if "everybody across party lines was as deeply moved and saddened as I was by what happened in Newtown, then we're going to have to vote based on what we think is best."

Officials said Obama and Biden met Monday afternoon to discuss the vice president's recommendations. Ahead of that meeting, Biden huddled with a dozen House Democrats who have formed their own gun violence task force and whose political muscle will be needed.

The president, without mentioning the NRA, said some gun rights groups have "a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government's about to take all your guns away,"

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