In his latest push for a series of new gun laws, President Obama today renewed his ongoing calls for public engagement on the issue of gun violence, and urged voters in Minneapolis not to let "filters" like the pro-gun lobby "get in the way of common sense" action.
Mr. Obama, speaking at the Minneapolis Police special operations center after a meeting with local law enforcement and community leaders, loosely outlined the series of steps he says can help reduce gun violence in America, and suggested that lobbyists - not public opinion - are threatening to prevent action on the subject.
"We don't have to agree on everything to agree it's time to do something," said Mr. Obama, who was surrounded by lawmakers and local law enforcement agents. "That's my main message here today. And each of us has a role to play."
Law enforcement officials and community leaders offer a valuable and unique perspective on the subject of gun violence, he argued, and "must have a seat at the table" if real action is to be taken in the name of preventing future violence.
"They're the ones on the front lines of this fight. They see the awful consequences - the lives lost, the families shattered. They know what works, they know what doesn't work, and they know how to get things done without regard for politics," he said. Also, he argued, "they all believe it's time to take some basic common sense steps to reduce gun violence."
Mr. Obama made an emphatic call for universal background checks, which he said have broad support among Americans - and among gun owners. He also argued that bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ammunition deserve congressional votes.
"Our law enforcement officers should never be outgunned on the streets," he said. "Weapons of war have no place on our streets."
Despite his insistence that most Americans support what he called the common-sense measures the White House has put forward, the president acknowledged the difficulties in confronting pro-gun forces, who have successfully fought off tougher gun laws for years.
"The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it's important," he said. "If we've got lobbyists in Washington claiming to speak for gun owners, saying something different [than they believe], we need to go to the source and reach out to people directly... We can't allow those filters to get in the way of common sense."
And even while he pointed to some supposedly encouraging signs of bipartisan agreement on the issue, Mr. Obama also conceded, "you can't count on anything in Washington until it's done, and nothing's done yet. That's why I need everybody who's listening to keep the pressure on their member of Congress to do the right thing."
The president's visit today marked the latest example of his ongoing efforts to fight legislative battles with campaign-style tactics, traveling across the country and engaging with local leaders, legislators, and victims, as well as delivering campaign-style remarks to audiences across the country, as a means to to get public opinion on his side.
Among the participants at his roundtable discussion include Attorney General Eric Holder; Gov. Mark Dayton, D-Minn.; Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback; Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Al Franken, D-Minn.;and Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
Despite a growing public appetite for more stringent gun laws in America -- particularly in the aftermath of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left a total of 20 children and eight adults dead -- it's unclear which of the president's proposals can make it through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The pro-gun lobby has already begun using its considerable resources to target the White House proposals.
Last week, at a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on the subject of gun violence, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre made the case this morning that efforts to curb gun violence should be focused on strengthening school security and mental health resources. He also stated his opposition to closing gun show loopholes, arguing that criminals won't submit to background checks anyway. In his initial response to the Newtown shootings, LaPierre argued that the solution to mass school shootings is not stronger gun laws, but rather putting an armed guard in every American school.
Meantime, on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of House members will introduce a to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for "straw purchasers" who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own. The group includes two Republicans, Reps. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Scott Rigell, R-Va., and two Democrats, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Today, Mr. Obama argued that enacting a measure trying to prevent criminals from getting guns isn't a liberal or conservative idea - but rather, he argued, a "smart idea."
"We want to keep those guns out of the hands of folks who shouldn't have them."