President Obama to push assault weapons ban in second term

President Obama will “actively support” efforts by Democrats to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons next year, the White House announced on Tuesday.

Press secretary Jay Carney said the president would back Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) when she introduces legislation at the opening of the next Congress to ban certain assault weapons in the United States.

Carney said the president would also support other gun-control efforts, including legislation to close the "gun show loophole" on background checks and prevent the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips.

The president has reached out to lawmakers who have expressed a new willingness to consider gun restrictions in the wake of Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 27 people, including 20 children. Carney said Obama has been "heartened" by the willingness to consider such measures from Democrats who have been strong supporters of gun rights.

Obama spoke on Tuesday with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a longtime member of the National Rifle Association who this week said "everything should be on the table" to address gun violence.

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The White House also confirmed that Obama has asked members of his Cabinet to suggest policy changes that could help reduce gun violence. Obama has already asked Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to suggest ways that the administration could respond to the shooting.

"Their participation underscores the comprehensive way in which the president views this process," Carney said.

The spokesman emphasized that the president was seeking a comprehensive legislative package that also addresses mental health services.

"He wants to expand the conversation beyond those specific areas of legislation to look at other areas," Carney said.

Obama attended a vigil in Newton on Sunday night for the victims of the shooting, vowing to use “whatever power this office holds” to prevent “more tragedies like this.”

“Because what choice do we have?" Obama said. "We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard?"

Carney said that the White House would examine violent imagery in entertainment, including video games, as it considers a response to the shooting.

"I think there are cultural issues ... that can contribute to the broader issue of gun violence," Carney said. "One of the reasons the president wants to expand the net ... is he recognizes that."

However, Carney cautioned that he did not have a specific proposal that was being evaluated — or even whether there would be one. But Carney said the president remained committed to conversations on a range of issues surrounding gun violence.

"What happened in Newtown will hopefully catalyze doing more," Carney said.

Obama largely shied away from gun control fights in his first term, to the dismay of some supporters on the left. The only gun law signed by the president expanded the ability to carry weapons in national parks and onto Amtrak trains.

It was recently reported that former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told Attorney General Eric Holder to "shut the f--- up" about gun control during a confrontation in 2009.

On Tuesday, Carney said that the president recognized that "as a nation, we need to do better" and that Obama was "a member, and the leader of, the nation."

The spokesman said he had not discussed with Obama whether he regretted not taking more action on gun control during his first term.

Emanuel, for his part, defended his and the president's record in an interview on Tuesday.

“President Obama always stood for getting [the assault weapons ban] done, No. 1," Emanuel told CBS News. "No. 2, I passed the Brady Bill with the assault weapon ban. It is very, very important that we do that. The fact is, in 2009 the president and the entire government was very clear to say this, as the attorney general knows, in getting all the president’s legislation done and working with Congress to do that.”

— This story was last updated at 2:18 p.m.