Obama Calls for Sweeping New Gun Laws
Any effort on behalf of the White House to push new gun laws through Congress is sure to face immense opposition from the gun lobby, which has for years wielded its formidable financial and organizing power to prevent the passage of federal laws that would tighten restrictions on gun ownership. And groups like the National Rifle Association are clearly gearing up to fight the president's recommendations: Early this morning, before Mr. Obama had even unveiled his proposals, the group released an ad calling the president an "elitist hypocrite" because his daughters have Secret Service protection.
The majority of House Republicans, who will set the legislative agenda, have also shown little appetite for most of the new gun laws on the table.
"The assault weapons ban, the magazine limitations, does not solve the problem of gun crime," said Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a former sheriff, in an interview today with CBS News. "I think you really have to address the mental health issues and that's the first and foremost issue. And then secondly, the laws that we have in this land already need to be enforced."
In a statement following Mr. Obama's speech, Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., said House committees of jurisdiction would review the president's recommendations, and that if the Senate passes a bill, "we will also look at that."
Despite the obvious hurdles, some gun control advocates believe that a recent groundswell of support for stricter gun laws could exert enough pressure on moderate Republicans to force a vote in the House.
The White House has also pointed to the push for universal background checks as its central priority in this fight. Part of the reason for that, according to the administration, is what Biden recently called a "surprising" and near-universal emphasis on the subject in his meetings with stakeholders over the past few weeks. But many also believe the background checks could be a more palatable option for some on the right.
Reichert, though he dismissed the effectiveness of the assault weapons ban and caps on high-capacity magazines, called the idea of universal background checks "a part of the total package that should be examined that could make a difference."
"Local laws, gun crime laws, state laws and federal laws, we need to have more emphasis on enforcing those laws, holding people accountable who have committed crimes or about to commit crimes," he told CBS. "We need to gather that information and hold those people accountable that commit gun crimes."
In his remarks today, Mr. Obama reiterated his respect for the Second Amendment and America's "strong tradition of gun ownership," and he acknowledged the nation's law-abiding gun owners. But he argued that some modest limits on gun laws don't violate the Second Amendment rights of hunters and sportsmen, while the actions of mass shooters do infringe on the constitutional rights of their victims.
"Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don't live in isolation. We live in a society, a government for and by the people. We are responsible for each other," he said. "We have the right to worship freely and safely; that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The right to assemble peacefully; that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado."