The Associated Press
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, left, hugs eight-year-old letter writer Grant Fritz during a news conference on proposals to reduce gun violence Wednesday in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. Obama and Biden were joined by law enforcement officials, lawmakers and children who wrote the president about gun violence following the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month.
Leading up to President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, strong emotions are emanating from both sides of the aisle on a range of subjects in today’s highly charged political environment of Washington.
There are raging battles over the national debt ceiling, taxes, spending cuts and immigration overhaul — no shortage of hot-button issues awaiting Obama and a deeply divided Congress.
The president has now formally added to the list gun control, which wasn’t even a major part of his second-term agenda until last month’s deadly shooting rampage at an elementary school in Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
Obama unveiled a tough package of measures Wednesday to curb what he said was “an epidemic” of gun violence. They include proposed legislation to ban the sale of certain semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines and to expand background checks. He also announced a raft of 23 steps that he could take by executive action alone without requiring congressional consent.
The legislative part of his package drew predictable and heavy opposition from the gun lobby and Republicans and is even drawing resistance from some members of his own party.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for instance, says that while an assault-style weapons ban might pass the Senate, he doubts it could pass the Republican-led House. Reid said immigration tops his priority list after the upcoming fiscal fights — not gun control.
The heavy sentiment in Congress against sweeping changes to gun laws runs counter to polls showing that a majority of Americans support tighter gun restrictions.
A new AP-GfK poll shows that 58 percent of Americans favor strengthening gun laws and 85 percent favor background checks for gun-show purchases.
Obama acknowledges the difficulty of making headway against the ingrained gun lobby and its congressional backers.
But, he said Wednesday, “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we have an obligation to try it. And I’m going do to my part.”