Obama: Gun control supporters must listen more

US President Barack Obama listens to President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on November 27, 2012. Pena Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), takes office on December 1, replacing Felipe Calderon from the conservative National Action Party (PAN), five months after his election victory. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images) JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama said gun control proponents "have to do a little more listening" to second-amendment advocates in an interview with The New Republic, noting that he has a "profound respect" for hunting as a tradition and urging those who support stricter gun laws not to dismiss that tradition "out of hand."

Asked if he has ever shot a gun, the president said, "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time. ... Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there. And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake."

"Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas," he said.

"So it's trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months," Mr. Obama explained. "And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."

In the wake of the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six school administrators dead, Mr. Obama proposed a raft of new restrictions on firearms, including a ban on military-style semiautomatic weapons and a restriction on the size of ammunition magazines. Gun-rights groups, in turn, have accused the president of trampling the constitutional rights of American gun-owners.

Mr. Obama's comments come amidst a concerted push from the administration to enact the president's agenda to reduce gun violence. On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden, who chaired the task force responsible for generating the policy ideas that Mr. Obama has proposed, traveled to Richmond, Va., to consult with experts and public officials on the way forward.

"We talked about the need to expand mental health capacity across the country. We talked about access and we talked about resources," Biden said. "But most the focus was on, what are the recommendations from these professionals about how we can detect earlier than later those folks who have the propensity" to commit acts of gun violence.

Biden said that the nation "has an obligation to act" after witnessing "What happened up in Newtown - beautiful little babies, six and seven years old, riddled - riddled - with bullets."

And "with the help of our colleagues in the House and Senate, we're going to get something done," he promised.

The first major congressional action on gun violence since the president unveiled his proposals is scheduled for January 30, when advocates on either side of the issue will testify at a hearing of the Senate Judicary Committee entitled "What Should America Do About Gun Violence?"

The hearing promises to be a high-profile affair, with testimony expected from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre, whose call for armed guards in schools sparked a fierce debate with proponents of gun control.

Also scheduled to testify is Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was shot in the head during a mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago.

  • Jake Miller

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