Obama pushes checks for gun owners

President Obama greets law-enforcement officers in Minneapolis before taking the stage to promote measures to reduce gun violence. He called background checks a "smart" idea, rather than conservative or liberal.
President Obama greets law-enforcement officers in Minneapolis before taking the stage to promote measures to reduce gun violence. He called background checks a "smart" idea, rather than conservative or liberal. (PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS / AP)
Posted: February 06, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS - President Obama, taking his first trip outside Washington to rally support for new gun measures, stood alongside dozens of uniformed police officers Monday as he delivered a forceful defense of mandatory background checks for all gun buyers.

Obama also touted his proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines during a speech at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center, signaling his intent to keep pushing for several major policy changes in Congress.

But Obama focused his remarks Monday on his most popular proposal - universal background checks - calling it a "smart" idea rather than a conservative or liberal one. The president sought to drive a wedge between the powerful National Rifle Association, which opposes universal background checks, and the American public, which polls suggest overwhelmingly supports the idea.

Referring to "lobbyists in Washington claiming to speak for gun owners," Obama said, "We can't allow those filters to get in the way of common sense. . . . I need everybody who's listening to keep the pressure on their members of Congress to do the right thing."

The stagecraft of Obama's visit Monday, with dozens of police officers and sheriff's deputies standing behind him, underscored the central role the White House hopes law enforcement officials will play in the fight for tougher gun laws. The event bore echoes of President Bill Clinton's successful effort nearly two decades ago to enlist law enforcement support for passage of the 1994 crime bill, which included a 10-year ban on assault rifles that has since expired.

"All the folks standing here behind me today, they're the ones on the front line of this fight," Obama said. "They see the awful consequences - the lives lost, the families shattered. They know what works, they know what doesn't work and they know how to get things done without regard for politics."

Obama said he would still push to ban military-style assault weapons and ammunition magazines capable of carrying more than 10 rounds, measures that face uncertain prospects on Capitol Hill. A gunman carrying a Bushmaster assault rifle with a 30-round magazine killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14 at a school in Newtown, Conn.

"We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines," Obama said. "And that 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."

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