Obama says to unveil gun-control proposals this week
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday he would review a set of "common sense steps" to reduce gun violence proposed by Vice President Joe Biden and announce a plan this week to pursue legislation and measures he could implement on his own.
Though the proposals have not been made public, a rough outline of what the president hopes to pursue is clear. Obama reiterated that he would support reinstating a ban on assault weapons, stricter controls on high-capacity ammunition clips, and stronger background checks.
Biden delivered his recommendations to Obama after a series of meetings with representatives from the weapons and entertainment industry as part of a task force requested by the president after the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were killed.
Obama, who has said the day of the shooting was the worst of his presidency, said earlier on Monday he would study the panel's ideas and then move forward "vigorously" on those that he endorsed, including some actions he could take without congressional approval.
"I'm confident that there are some steps that we can take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as president," Obama said. "And where you get a step that has the opportunity to reduce the possibility of gun violence, then I want to go ahead and take it."
Biden originally had said he expected to submit his ideas to Obama by Tuesday, so their White House meeting on Monday indicated an even more accelerated schedule than the already hurried pace the vice president's team has followed to date.
A White House official said the president would present his "plan for moving forward" later in the week, but declined to pinpoint a day.
The president suggested that changes to how data on guns used by criminals is gathered and tracked could be made through an administrative action.
APPEAL TO CONSCIENCE
Obama acknowledged that some of the legislative proposals could have trouble getting through Congress, but he appealed to lawmakers to listen to their conscience once the legislative process begins.
"Members of Congress, I think, are going to have to have a debate and examine their own conscience," he said.
"If in fact - and I believe this is true - everybody across party lines was as deeply moved ... as I was by what happened in Newtown, then we're going to have to vote based on what we think is best. We're going to have to come up with answers that set politics aside."
There is opposition in both major parties to restricting the access and availability of guns, although Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, traditionally are seen as being more resistant to such efforts.
Obama, a Democrat who won re-election in November, said gun enthusiasts would be hard-pressed to say his administration had infringed on their constitutional right to bear arms, and he said gun control opponents were responsible for stoking concerns that had led to long lines at gun stores.
His remarks appeared to be a swipe at the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, which met with Biden on Thursday and then complained that the White House was trying to limit constitutionally protected gun rights.
"Those who oppose any common sense gun control or gun safety measures have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government's about to take all your guns away," he said.
"Those of us who look at this problem have repeatedly said that responsible gun owners, people who have a gun for protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship, they don't have anything to worry about." (Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Paul Simao and Doina Chiacu)
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