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

(Continued from page 1)

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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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.

Seeking to ease those fears, Obama insisted that responsible gun owners who have weapons for protection or hunting "don't have anything to worry about" under the proposals he will push.

The assault weapons ban, which Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest road on Capitol Hill. Congress passed a 10-year ban on the high-grade military-style weapons in 1994, but supporters didn't have the votes to renew it once it expired in 2004.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday predicted that a ban might win Senate approval but he doubted it could pass in the Republican-led House.

Obama will also need congressional help to limit high-capacity ammunition magazines, like the ones used by the Newtown shooter, and to require background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun. Some gun control advocates, including The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, are urging Obama to make the broader background checks his top priority, believing it has the best chance of winning congressional approval.

The Brady Campaign said some 40 percent of gun sales happen with no background checks, such as at gun shows and by private sellers over the Internet or through classified ads.

Among the executive actions Biden is believed to have recommended to Obama are tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks, elevating gun trafficking to a felony charge and ending limits that make it harder for the federal government to research gun violence.

The president's proposals are also expected to include steps for improving school safety and mental health care, as well as recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment and video games. Pro-gun rights groups have long insisted that insufficient mental health care and violent images are more to blame for mass shootings than the availability of guns.

A Democratic lawmaker who met with Biden Monday said the vice president was likely to have given Obama proposals for allowing schools flexibility in spending federal grant money so they could take steps toward safety, including hiring school resource officers, instituting mental health intervention or making repairs like putting locks on doors.

The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposals hadn't been announced publicly.

Underscoring the political tensions surrounding gun legislation, Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman said he would file articles of impeachment if Obama used executive orders "to infringe on our constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms."


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