WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 will unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days, perhaps as early as Wednesday. 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 several steps Obama can implement himself using his presidential powers.
Biden identified 19 potential executive actions the president could enact on his own, said Jenny Werwa, communications director for California Rep. Jackie Speier, who joined other Democratic House members at a meeting with the vice president Monday.
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.
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 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."
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