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Obama to push for gun measures outside of Washington

February 04, 2013|By Kathleen Hennessey
  • President Obama will seek Monday to maintain momentum for his administration's gun control proposals.
President Obama will seek Monday to maintain momentum for his administration's… (Michael Reynolds / Getty…)

ST. PAUL, MINN. – Even as key lawmakers remain cool to some of his proposals, President Obama will try to keep up a drumbeat for new gun control measures in a visit with law enforcement officials in Minneapolis on Monday.

The quick day trip to the deeply Democratic city is the president’s first trip outside of Washington to try to sell the gun control package he proposed in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Obama is due to huddle with police and other law enforcement officials at the Minneapolis Police Department’s Special Operations Center before making remarks.

The president announced his measures – which include a call for universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and reinstatement of the assault weapons ban – last month with a plea for lawmakers to take up an issue long considered politically toxic.

But since the announcement, there has been scant evidence that lawmakers are rethinking their positions, particularly on proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, measures that face resistance from within the president’s party.

On Sunday, even top Obama ally Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remained noncommittal on those two measures.

“I think that's something we definitely have to take a look at,” the Nevada Democrat said in an interview on ABC News’ “This Week.” Reid did endorse the push to expand the current background check system, a proposal that has broad public support and the element of Obama’s package with the most momentum on the Hill.

Obama’s goal is to try to sustain that momentum by rallying public opinion and keeping the pressure on Congress with several big issues on its plate, including immigration reform and deficit talks.

The White House has billed the measure as “common sense” and moderate, hoping to find support among gun owners and red-state voters. The president recently claimed to be familiar with firearms and the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David as evidence.

The White House picked Minneapolis for the backdrop Monday in part because law enforcement and other officials here have advocated for better background checks and instituted programs aimed at curbing gun violence.

Mayor R. T. Rybak, an Obama supporter and surrogate during the campaign, co-hosted a Regional Gun Summit earlier this month and Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek is leading a group of sheriffs pushing state legislators to improve the database used in background checks run on gun purchasers.

After gun violence involving young people rose nearly a decade ago, the city instituted a comprehensive violence prevention program that emphasized mentoring for young people, rehabilitation and other community programs. Local officials credit the program with helping to reduce gun-related incidents involving young people.

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