US President Barack Obama endorsed contentious bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as stricter background checks for gun buyers — but conceded he may not win approval of all in a US Congress reluctant to tighten restrictions.
Obama said lawmakers would have to “examine their own conscience” as they tackle gun control legislation after the Connecticut school shooting last month.
Obama on Monday spoke at a White House news conference one month after the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in which a 20-year-old shooter killed 20 children and six adults before committing suicide.
The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days, based on recommendations from US Vice President Joe Biden, who spent weeks holding talks with gun victim’s groups, the entertainment and video game industries, and gun owner advocacy groups.
However the most sweeping and contentious elements of the plan — including an assault weapons ban — will require approval from a Congress that has been loath to tackle gun control for more than a decade. The politically powerful National Rifle Association (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. The president’s new resolve follows a lack of movement in tackling gun violence throughout much of his first term.
Parents of the slain children added their voices to the national dialogue on Monday. Members of 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.
New York State lawmakers on Monday pressed ahead with what would be the US’ first gun control measure approved since the school shootings. Among the items in a tentative agreement in the state’s legislature are further restrictions on a state ban on assault weapons, limiting the size of magazines to seven bullets 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.
Officials said Obama and Biden met on Monday afternoon to discuss the vice president’s recommendations.
Ahead of that meeting, Biden huddled with a dozen US House of Representative Democrats who have formed their own gun violence task force and whose political muscle will be needed to push legislation through Congress.
Obama said 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 NRA and other pro-gun groups insist that gun control conflicts with the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizen to bear arms. Others say the country’s founders more than two centuries ago could not have imagined the kind of high-powered guns available now.
The assault weapons ban, which Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest road. Congress passed a 10-year ban on the high-grade military-style weapons in 1994, but supporters did not have the votes to renew it once it expired in 2004.
US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday predicted that a ban might win Senate approval, but he doubted it could pass in the Republican-led House.