Obama vows to press ahead with new gun laws

A renewed ban on military-style assault weapons has all but failed, left on the cutting room floor by Senate Democrats this week who worried that they would not be able to pass a gun-violence bill with the ban attached.

But despite that setback, President Obama vowed to continue pushing his agenda to reduce gun violence in his weekly address Saturday, praising the Senate for taking "some big steps forward" with recent legislation would strengthen background checks for gun buyers and institute stricter penalties for illegal gun trafficking.

"It has now been three months since the tragic events in Newtown, Conn.," Mr. Obama said. "Three months since we, as Americans, began asking ourselves if we're really doing enough to protect our communities and keep our children safe."

"Today there is still genuine disagreement among well-meaning people about what steps we should take to reduce the epidemic of gun violence in this country. But you - the American people - have spoken. You've made it clear that it's time to do something," he said. "And over the last few weeks, senators here in Washington have listened and taken some big steps forward."

"Two weeks ago, the Senate advanced a bill that would make it harder for criminals and people with a severe mental illness from getting their hands on a gun - an idea supported by nine out of 10 Americans, including a majority of gun owners," the president said. "The Senate also made progress on a bill that would crack down on anyone who buys a gun as part of a scheme to funnel it to criminals."

And perhaps signaling that he is not ready to give up on the assault-weapons ban just yet, the president said, "Finally, the Senate took steps to re-instate and strengthen a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons" and "set a 10-round limit for magazines."

"These ideas shouldn't be controversial," Mr. Obama said. "They're common sense. They're supported by a majority of the American people. And I urge the Senate and the House to give each of them a vote."

"Right now, we have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America," the president said. "We have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our tradition of responsible gun ownership, and also do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or people with a severe mental illness."

In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, where 20 children and six teachers were killed by a man wielding a semiautomatic assault weapon, Mr. Obama unveiled a raft of proposals to combat gun violence in America, including the ban on assault weapons, a limit on the size of ammunition magazines, a stronger national background check system, and stronger gun trafficking penalties.

Republicans and interest groups like the National Rifle Association cried foul, accusing the administration of exploiting a tragedy to push an unconstitutional agenda that infringes on Americans' Second Amendment right to bear arms.

This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada announced that he would move forward with an overhaul of the nation's gun laws that did not include an assault-weapons ban, saying lawmakers would concentrate on proposals that stood a greater chance of actually passing the Senate.

"The assault weapons ban was always an uphill battle this session," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a statement. "As we have known all along, we face a marathon effort and not a sprint."

Reid said that he understood the ardor many in his caucus feel for the ban on military-style weapons, but he argued, "I think the worst of all worlds would be to bring something to the floor and it dies there."

The ban, authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., passed the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month on a party-line vote, signaling a tough road ahead for proponents of the measure.

When Reid announced that he was shelving the proposal, he also decreed that any gun-violence bill passed by the Senate must include more stringent background checks, which many pro-gun-control groups have identified as the most important, effectual proposal under consideration.