By Amie Parnes - 02/04/13 08:43 PM EST
President Obama took the gun control debate on the road for the first time on Monday, pressuring Congress to take action quickly and telling lawmakers in no uncertain terms, “We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something.”
A seemingly somber and pensive Obama renewed his calls for bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in an address before a crowd of law enforcement officials in Minneapolis. But he sounded a more optimistic tone on legislation implementing universal background checks, which stands the best chance of passage.
While Obama urged Congress to institute a broad set of gun-control proposals, he made clear on Monday that the “vast majority” of Americans — including a majority of gun owners — “support criminal background checks on anyone trying to buy a gun.”
“That's common sense,” he said. “There’s no reason we can’t get that done. That is not a liberal idea or a conservative idea. It’s not a Democratic or Republican idea. That is a smart idea. We want to keep those guns out of the hands of folks who shouldn’t have them.”
But Obama said Congress “shouldn’t stop there” and urged Congress to restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and reduce the size of magazines. “That deserves a vote in Congress, because weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers,” the president said.
Obama remarks come amid uncertainty on Capitol Hill on gun control. While many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are beginning to coalesce around supporting mandatory background checks on all firearm purchasers, such measures face strong opposition from conservatives and the powerful National Rifle Association, which has accused Obama of targeting Second Amendment rights.
The Senate Judiciary Committee began hearings last week on gun control, and Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) says he hopes to move a bill by month’s end. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has expressed skepticism about the prospects for passing an assault weapon ban, but says he supports strengthening background checks.
White House aides say they selected Minnesota for Monday’s trip because of the state's efforts to help curb gun violence, including background checks. While White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that it was “premature” to start writing off any element of the president’s gun control proposals, aides say they are cautiously optimistic that Congress could pass legislation on background checks.
And while Obama said Monday he was pleased that Congress is finally starting to move on gun control legislation, he added, “You can’t count on anything in Washington until it’s done, and nothing’s done yet.”