Obama will NOT actively seek ban on ‘assault rifles’ despite saying ‘weapons of war have no place on our streets’
- President does not believe an assault rifle ban will get through Congress
PUBLISHED: 14:36 EST, 11 January 2013 | UPDATED: 17:09 EST, 11 January 2012
President Obama has vowed to limit access to what he called ‘weapons of war’ after last month’s Sandy Hook massacre but the White House is privately making clear that it doesn’t not believe an ‘assault weapons’ ban will get through Congress.
This recognition marks a rare point of agreement between the Obama administration and the National Rifle Association (NRA).
‘I do not think that there is going to be a ban on so-called assault weapons passed by the Congress,’ David Keene, NRA president, told Matt Lauer of the NBC ‘Today’ programme.
Doubts: Barack Obama, pictured with Afghan President Hamid Karzai today, does not believe an assault rifle ban will get through Congress
Agreement: NRA President David Keene told Matt Lauer on the Today Show that he also didn’t believe an assault rifle ban would get through Congress
Action: The vice president has hinted that President Obama might use executive action if Congress takes no action on gun violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre
Lauer had asked him if the NRA was powerful enough to block the legislation. He also posed the question of whether the power of the NRA had been ‘eroded’ after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead.
‘I don’t know that the NRA is that powerful,’ Keene responded. ‘I do think that those Americans who believe strongly in the Second Amendment and their right to own privately and use firearms for legitimate purposes is a huge number of people who really care about these issues.’
A task force led by Vice President Joe Biden is preparing readies recommendations to reduce gun violence that will be placed on Obama’s desk by Tuesday.
While a new ‘assault weapons’ ban of the type that expired in 2004 after a decade will be an element of a final package, the White House believes it will not become law and therefore wants other measures that could gain bipartisan support to be enacted.
Biden has indicated he will recommend universal background checks and curbs on high-capacity magazines.
Publicly, the White House insists it will pursue an ‘assault weapons’ ban and denied a report in the New York Times that it was shying away from trying to push a bill through Congress.
Speaking before a meeting in the White House, Biden spoke of the urgency of his report after the Sandy Hook massacre, stating that ‘nothing that has pricked the consciousness’ like the images of ‘little six-year-olds riddled…with bullet holes in their class’.
Biden said that he had met a variety of interested groups and had ‘never quite heard as much talk about the need to do something about high-capacity magazines’.
He also said that there had been a ‘recurrence of suggestions’ that there should be ‘universal background checks’ for the sale of guns, including at gun shows and in private sales.
Adam Lanza, who carried out the Sandy Hook massacre, used a Bushmaster .223 rifle. It is unclear, however, whether this would be covered by an ‘assault weapons’ ban. It was legal in Connecticut despite a ban modelled on the federal legislation.
Gun rights advocates say the term ‘assault weapons’ is nonsensical and that such a ban could cover many sporting rifles.
Crackdown: Biden raised the suggestion again for ‘universal’ background checks on all gun sales including private ones
After emerging from the White House meeting with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday, the NRA issued a statement slamming him for an ‘attack’ on the Second Amendment.
The gun rights group said: ‘We were disappointed with how little this meeting had to do with keeping our children safe and how much it had to do with an agenda to attack the Second Amendment.
‘While claiming that no policy proposals would be “prejudged”, this Task Force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners — honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans.
‘It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.’
The National Rifle Association was one of the gun owner groups at the White House today to meet Vice President Joe Biden – who yesterday signalled that the Obama would take ‘executive action’ to curb gun rights.
Biden’s meeting with the NRA is one of three he has scheduled for Thursday as he prepares to make recommendations on gun policy by the end of the month. Besides the NRA, Biden and other officials are meeting with sportsmen and wildlife interest groups, as well as people from the entertainment industry.
The NRA, the nation’s largest gun-rights group, has blocked gun control efforts in the past and is opposing any new ones.But David Keene, NRA president, said in a Brooklyn GOP Radio podcast on Wednesday that he backed action against criminals with guns.
‘Aside from the insane people that are involved in these mass shootings, most gun crime, most crimes involving firearms, crime period is committed by people who, in effect, are making a living by stealing purses, burglarising houses and robbing people.
Critically important: Biden said the massacre at Sandy Hook meant the president had to act
‘Anything that deals with gun crime by prosecuting people who misuse firearms in the commission of a felony is a good idea and that part’s fine.
‘But the idea of banning or restricting firearms from perfectly honest, legitimate Americans who have a right to defend themselves as per the Supreme Court and the Second Amendment, have a right to privately own firearms, is both constitutionally suspect and, from a policy standpoint, has been empirically demonstrated over time not to have any impact whatever on violence or crime.’
Speaking before a White House meeting with gun control advocates on Wednesday, Biden said: ‘The president is going to act.There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet, but we’re compiling it all.’
Executive orders have the full force of law and are issued by a president using his executive powers independently of Congress. Use of them, however, is highly controversial because it bypasses the legislative branch – the Congress.
If Obama were to act on gun control with sweeping executive orders, he would be likely to face a backlash of outrage from many Republicans.
He said that last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 27 dead, including 20 children, had ‘touched the heart of the American people so profoundly’ and ‘requires immediate, urgent action’.
Eric Holder, the attorney general, sat at the table with Biden, alongside representatives of gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre shooting and the stepfather of a victim in last summer’s Aurora, Colorado mass shooting.
Biden said: ‘I want to make clear that we’re not going to get caught up in the notion that, unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing,’ Biden said. ‘It’s critically important we act.’
The vice president is due to finalise his task force’s findings on gun violence and pass the results to Obama by the end of the month.
Biden is understood to be considering a raft of gun control proposals – including an option of working with stores like Wal-Mart to close the so called ‘gun show loophole’ so that more weapons could be bought in retail outlets.
A person working within the Obama administration told The Washington Post that Wal-Mart and other major gun retailers might have an incentive to back closing the loophole, which allows people to bypass background checks if they buy firearms via private sales.
After the Sandy Hook massacre, Biden was deputed to lead a task force charged with making recommendations to President Barack Obama to prevent future carnage.
Call for action: Many of those meeting with Biden Wednesday had been touched by gun violence. From left are: William Kellibrew, Witness to Violence & Founder William Kellibrew Foundation; Hildy Saizow of Arizona for Gun Safety; Colin Goddard, a survivor of Virginia Tech shooting; Annette Nance-Holt, mother of victim to gang violence; and Lonnie Phillips, stepfather of a Aurora, Colo., shooting victim. Biden is holding a series of meetings this week as part of the effort he is leading to develop policy proposals in response to the Newtown, Conn., school shooting. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
On Thursday, he will meet gun ownership organisations – including the National Rifle Association – and sportsmen who use guns recreationally.
Obama has described the day of the Sandy Hook massacre in December as the worst of his presidency, and has said he will look to take quick action on the Biden group’s recommendations.
The Washington Post reported that the White House is weighing a broad approach on gun control that would go beyond bans on assault weapons and high-capacity clips that have prompted attention in the past.
Among the measures Biden is said to be looking at are universal background checks for gun buyers and a national database to track the movement and sale of weapons.
Members of Congress have indicated a readiness to look at the issue of gun violence, but any major changes to gun laws would be expected to encounter resistance from Republicans and many Democrats who are strong supporters of Second Amendment gun rights.
There have been signs of a potential shift among key figures though, with a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, telling CNN that the top Democrat was in a ‘different place’ on gun control.
After Sandy Hook, Reid said on the Senate floor: ‘We need to accept the reality that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens.’
The NRA opposes new restrictions on gun ownership and insists that the best way to deal with the issue of gun violence is to put armed guards in all schools.
Safer option? Biden is said to be behind a plan to encourage gun buyers to purchase from supermarkets where they must undergo background checks
Jay Carney, White House press secretary, has said that Biden was overseeing a process engaged with a variety of stakeholders to look at gun violence. ‘They include gun owners and groups that represent gun owners.’
Sheriff Richard Stanek, who attended one meeting at the White House, told the Washington Post said that Biden ‘wanted to talk to us about the assault-weapons ban, automatic weapons, high-capacity magazines.
He added that the meeting also included extended discussion of mental-health issues, violence in video games and films, and the poor quality of information contained in databases used to conduct criminal background checks before issuing gun permits.
According to the White House, ‘soon after’ the meetings are complete, Biden will pass his task force’s recommendations to Obama, who will then issue a set of proposals for tackling gun violence.
Biden said he was ‘heartened’ by the response the White House has received to a request for input on the gun issue, with contributions being received from mental health groups, medical professionals and religious groups.