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Obama stands firm on gun control demands

MINNEAPOLIS — President Barack Obama declared Monday on a campaign-style trip to promote gun control that a consensus is emerging for universal background checks for buyers, though he conceded a tough road lay ahead to pass an assault weapons ban over formidable opposition in Congress.

The president unveiled his gun-control plans last month after the shootings at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school. But many of the proposals face tough opposition from some in Congress and from the National Rifle Association.

“We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines,” Obama said in a speech, holding firm on his full package on gun-control measures despite long odds. Such a ban “deserves a vote in Congress because weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers.”

Democratic lawmakers and aides, as well as lobbyists, say an assault weapons ban has the least chance of being approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee that is working up the legislation. They say a ban on high-capacity magazines is viewed as the next least likely proposal to survive, some compromise version of it might, allowing more than the 10-round maximum that Obama favours.

Likeliest to be included are universal background checks and prohibitions against gun trafficking, they say. One lobbyist said other possible terms include steps to improve record keeping on resales of guns and perhaps provisions that would make it harder for mentally ill people from obtaining firearms.

The president spoke from a special police operations centre in a city in the American heartland that was once known to some as “Murderapolis” but where gun violence has dropped amid a push to address it from city leaders.

Officers stood behind him, dressed in crisp uniforms of blue, white and brown.

The site conveyed Obama’s message that a reduction in violence can be achieved nationally, even if Americans have sharp disagreements over gun control.

That includes among members of his own party in Washington.

Suggesting he won’t get all he’s proposing, he said, “We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something.”

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he wants to give the bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines a vote.

But he will not say whether he will support either, and advocates and opponents alike predict they are unlikely to pass.

Putting the controversial measures up for a vote could put some Democratic senators in a tough spot. That includes some from conservative-leaning states who are up for re-election next year and face the prospect of voting against either fervent gun-rights supporters or Obama and gun-control supporters in the party’s base.

The White House says Obama is not writing off any part of his package despite the long odds for the assault weapons ban in particular before votes are scheduled or he takes his arguments on the road.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who has been helping push the gun control package, said he and Obama spoke on the matter Sunday and agreed that Washington in a vacuum is unlikely to move quickly.

The White House said Obama made his maiden trip on the gun control package to Minneapolis because the city has taken steps to tackle gun violence, including a push for stricter background checks.

The city launched a program in 2008 aimed at providing more resources for at-risk youth and helping rehabilitate young people who have already committed crimes.

Ahead of Monday’s trip, the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David, the presidential retreat, which prompted more question about the president’s experience with guns. White House press secretary Jay Carney said he was not aware of Obama personally owning any firearms.

On Tuesday, four House of Representatives members — two Republicans and two Democrats — planned to announce bipartisan legislation making gun trafficking a federal crime and strengthening penalties against people who legally buy firearms but give them to others who are barred from purchasing them, such as felons.

Republican leaders in the House have sent no signals that they intend to move imminently on gun legislation.

 
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