By Justin Sink - 01/28/13 05:18 PM EST
President Obama said Monday that the issue of gun violence could only be addressed with "the cooperation of Congress" at an event Monday at the White House with law enforcement officials from towns that have been devastated by mass shootings.
The effort was the latest push by the White House to keep the president's gun-control plan on the front burner even as Congress is beginning debate over a comprehensive budget deal and immigration reform. Obama has called for a series of bills that would ban semi-automatic weapons with military features — often referred to as assault weapons — along with high-capacity magazines. The president has also called for universal background checks on gun purchases along with expanded research into the causes of gun violence.
Michael Kehoe, the police chief from Newton, Conn. — the site of December's mass shooting at an elementary school that left 20 children and 6 employees dead — was in attendance at the meeting, as well as top law enforcement officials from Aurora, Colo., the site of the movie theater shooting in July that left 12 dead, and Oak Creek, Wis., where six were killed at a Sikh temple.
The meeting was also attended by members of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and Major County Sheriffs Association, as well as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
In his brief remarks before the meeting, Obama said he hoped to discuss with the law enforcement officials how to prevent future incidents of gun violence, saying the group was "where the rubber hits the road.”
"It's not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here, it's also what happens on a day-in-day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day," Obama said.
Vice President Biden traveled to Richmond, Va., last Friday for a two-hour roundtable discussion with officials involved in the Virginia Tech mass shootings. After the event, Biden said the 2007 massacre, which left 32 dead, was evidence of the need for strengthened background checks.
The day before, Biden hosted a virtual town hall on the topic from the White House. During that forum, the vice president repeatedly challenged statements from the National Rifle Association, which has pledged opposition to the White House's gun plans.
"It's not about keeping bad guns out of the hands of good people," Biden said. "It's about keeping all guns out of the hands of bad people."
The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on gun measures Wednesday. On Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who introduced a renewed assault weapons ban at a press conference last week, described the push as "an uphill fight."
“This has never been easy," Feinstein told CNN. "This is the hardest of the hard.”