Obama backs gun limits, concedes tough fight ahead

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013
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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 to push legislation through Congress.

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,"

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.

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, including the NRA, 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. Grants could also go to communities to institute programs to get guns away from people who shouldn't have them, said the lawmaker, adding these were steps the president could take without Congress.

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."

Biden's recommendations to the president followed weeks of wide-ranging talks with key stakeholders, including gun victim's groups, the entertainment and video game industries and gun owner advocacy groups.

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Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC