Obama Vows Fast Action in New Push for Gun Control
Published: December 19, 2012 931 Comments
WASHINGTON — President Obama declared on Wednesday that he would make gun control a “central issue” as he opens his second term, promising to submit broad new firearm proposals to Congress no later than January and to employ the full power of his office to overcome deep-seated political resistance.
Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Leading House Republicans responded to the president’s pledge in the aftermath of the Connecticut school massacre by restating their firm opposition to new limits on guns or ammunition, setting up the possibility of a bitter legislative battle and a philosophical clash over the Second Amendment soon after Mr. Obama’s inauguration.
Having avoided a politically difficult debate over guns for four years, Mr. Obama vowed to restart a national conversation about their role in American society, the need for better access to mental health services and the impact of exceedingly violent images in the nation’s culture.
He warned that the conversation — which has produced little serious change after previous mass shootings — will be a short one, followed by specific legislative proposals that he intends to campaign for, starting with his State of the Union address next month.
“This time, the words need to lead to action,” Mr. Obama said. “I will use all the powers of this office to help advance efforts aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
At an appearance in the White House briefing room, the president said that he had directed Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to lead an interagency effort to develop what the White House said would be a multifaceted approach to preventing mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., last week and the many other gun deaths that occur each year.
As evidence of the brutal cost of gun violence, Mr. Obama said that since Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut, guns had led to the deaths of police officers in Memphis and Topeka, Kan.; a woman in Las Vegas; three people in Alabama; and a 4-year-old in a drive-by shooting in Missouri. They are, he said, victims of “violence that we cannot accept as routine.”
Accompanied by Mr. Biden, the president signaled his support for new limits on high-capacity clips and assault weapons, as well as a desire to close regulatory loopholes affecting gun shows. He promised to confront the broad pro-gun sentiment in Congress that has for years blocked gun control measures.
That opposition shows little signs of fading away. While the death of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday appears to have persuaded some Democratic lawmakers to support new gun control measures, there has been little indication that Republicans who control the House — and are in a standoff with Mr. Obama over taxes — are willing to accept such restrictions.
House Democrats urged Speaker John A. Boehner on Wednesday to bring a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines to a vote by Saturday — a step he is highly unlikely to take.
Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, an influential conservative leader, said in an e-mail that “it is clear that criminals will always find ways to acquire weapons and use them to commit acts of violence.”
“Passing more restrictions on law-abiding citizens will not deter this type of crime,” he said.
Mr. Jordan and other House Republicans declined to be interviewed, saying through aides that it was time to mourn, not to debate policy.
“There will be plenty of time to have this conversation,” said Brittany Lesser, a spokeswoman for Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, “but it is not amidst the funerals of these brave young children and adults.”
This week, Mr. King told an Iowa radio station, KSCJ, that “political opportunists didn’t wait 24 hours before they decided they were going to go after some kind of a gun ban.” He also expressed doubt about gun control measures, saying, “We all had our cap pistols when I was growing up, and that didn’t seem to cause mass murders in the street.”
Representative Howard Coble, Republican of North Carolina, said in an interview that he thought the talk of gun control was “probably a rush to judgment” that missed the real issue.