President pushes for gun-control measures

Law | Leigh Jones

President pushes for gun-control measures

President Barack Obama walks off stage after delivering a speech at an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Associated Press/Photo by Evan Vucci, File

President Barack Obama plans to put his “full weight” behind the push for new gun control legislation in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

During an interview Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, the president said he would make the new legislation one of his top priorities in 2013. Earlier this month, the president appointed Vice President Joe Biden to head a committee that will make recommendations about gun-control measures, and other safety initiatives, in January.

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But President Obama already has a list of items he wants to see banned: assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. He also supports increased background checks for people buying guns.

The president said he planned to rally the American people to support the legislative effort, a counterbalance to the opposition he knows he’ll face from many lawmakers.

“I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognize that we can’t have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids,” he said. “And, yes, it’s going to be hard.”

After maintaining a week of silence following the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first-graders and six adults dead, the National Rifle Association (NRA) announced its own plan for safer schools: armed guards on every campus. The organization remains opposed to any additional gun control laws. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

But on Sunday, Obama said he didn’t think putting more guns in schools would stop the violence, adding that the majority of Americans agreed with him.

Speaking separately on Sunday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he thought rural Americans, who enjoy hunting as a way of life, were ready to start talking about gun control. The debate must start with a respect for the Second Amendment’s protection for gun ownership, Vilsack said, but the Newtown incident has changed the way people think about the issue.

“It’s potentially a unifying conversation,” he said. “The problem is that these conversations are always couched in the terms of dividing us. This could be a unifying conversation, and Lord knows we need to be unified.”

But LaPierre, who appeared on Meet the Press before Christmas, said blaming guns for violence wouldn’t solve the problem.

“You can’t legislate morality,” he said. “Legislation works on the sane. Legislation works on the law abiding. It doesn’t work on criminals. … There are monsters out there every day, and we need to do something to stop them.”

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