Gun bans

Tough Path Seen by Obama on Ban of Assault Weapons

by MICHAEL D. SHEAR and PETER BAKER, The New York Times  |  published on January 12, 2013

While President Obama pledged to crack down on access to what he called “weapons of war” in the aftermath of last month’s schoolhouse massacre, the White House has calculated that a ban on military-style assault weapons will be exceedingly difficult to pass through Congress and is focusing on other measures it deems more politically achievable.

As a task force led by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. readies recommendations on reducing gun violence for delivery to the president next week, White House officials say a new ban will be an element of whatever final package is proposed. But given the entrenched opposition from gun rights groups and their advocates on Capitol Hill, the White House is trying to avoid making its passage the sole definition of success and is emphasizing other new gun rules that could conceivably win bipartisan support and reduce gun deaths.

During a day of White House meetings on the issue on Thursday, including one with the National Rifle Association, Mr. Biden focused publicly on universal background checks for gun purchases and the need for more federal research on gun violence. In 15 minutes of public remarks, Mr. Biden made no mention of curbing the production and sale of assault weapons, even though he was a prime author of such a law that passed in 1994 and expired 10 years later. Both he and the president say they strongly support an assault weapons ban.

But Mr. Biden noted that his former colleagues in the Senate have long been “pretty universally opposed to any restrictions on gun ownership or what type of weapons can be purchased.” He said they now seem more open to limits on the purchase of high-capacity magazines.

A spokesman for Mr. Obama said later in the afternoon that the vice president’s remarks merely reflect a desire for a broad approach to gun violence.

“President Obama has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option,” said Matt Lehrich, the spokesman. “He’s also stressed that no single piece of legislation alone can solve this problem, which is why he has asked Vice President Biden to explore a wide array of proposals on topics ranging from gun laws to mental health to school safety.”

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