Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Minn., Obama Presses Case for Tougher Gun Laws

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

In Minn., Obama Presses Case for Tougher Gun Laws

Article excerpt

MINNEAPOLIS -- President Barack Obama traveled to the nation's heartland Monday to press his case for tougher national gun laws, even as he appeared to acknowledge that expanded background checks on gun sales were far more likely to pass Congress than a ban on military-style assault weapons.

In a city once called "Murderapolis" for its homicide rate in the 1990s, the president cited successful gun violence prevention efforts here as evidence that new national laws are needed to reduce the number of shootings across the country.

"The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it's important," Mr. Obama said, standing in front of a sea of police officers and sheriff's deputies at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center.

Mr. Obama renewed his call for Congress to pass a series of measures, including a ban on the manufacture and sale of new assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines and an expansion of the criminal background checks that now covers only about 60 percent of gun sales. But he openly demonstrated different expectations for the measures as Washington wages a bitterly divisive debate over the role of guns in society.

Mr. Obama declared "universal background checks" to be supported by a "vast majority of Americans" and called for their quick passage in Congress. "There's no reason why we can't get that done," he told the gathering of law enforcement officials.

But of the potential for a new assault weapons ban, the president said only that it "deserves a vote in Congress, because weapons of war have no place on our streets."

On Monday, White House aides again said the president was still pushing for the three measures, along with changes to the nation's mental health system. But Mr. Obama, top lawmakers in Congress and gun-control advocacy groups appear nervous about the political chances of the assault weapons ban and eager to push for a better background-check system.

"There definitely seems to be a significant convergence around the idea of universal background checks," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, though he added: "I think there is still a significant outcry on the part of the American public to talk about assault weapons. …

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