Gun control 2013: Obama to continue calling for gun control legislation near Aurora theater today
Gregory Wallace, CNN
9:05 AM, Apr 3, 2013
9:07 AM, Apr 3, 2013
When President Barack Obama visited last July with victims of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater massacre, he expressed hope that "over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country."
The president repeated that call after the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and has taken that message on the road in a series of events in places around the country touched by gun violence.
Obama will continue calling for gun violence legislation on Wednesday when he speaks at the Denver Police Academy, the White House said. The academy is not far from the Aurora theater.
This week's event will be followed by another in Hartford, Connecticut on Monday as the White House spokesman says the president remains as committed as immediately after the tragedies to take action.
"He believes that that passion, that urgency still exists around the country and it still exists if not in full, then in part in Washington and that is why he is continuing to make the case," press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. "Negotiations and conversations continue to take place and it is essential that Congress act and essential that it take action."
Recent polls have indicated that the public isn't as keen on major gun restrictions as immediately after the December elementary school shooting. The CNN/ORC poll from mid-March showed support for major gun restrictions or outlawing all guns dropped to 43% from 52% in a December survey.
But the polling tells a second story: a high level of support for requiring a background check on every gun sale. The most recent survey, from CBS News, found nine of ten Americans supported universal background checks, including 96% of Democrats, 86% of Republicans and 89% of independents. Other March surveys have put that number at 85% or above.
In Colorado, he will meet with victims and families connected to the Aurora shooting and the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, according to a White House official. Obama is also expected to meet with law enforcement and community leaders from the area.The state recently adopted several strict gun laws that will take effect July 1, including adopting universal background checks and a 15-round limit on gun magazine size.
Connecticut has also tightened its gun laws since the December shooting.
Expanding the scope of background checks has been the focus of federal legislation, including the bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid plans to bring up this month.
That measure already has a filibuster threat from several conservative members. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who has not joined the group threatening a filibuster, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" that "legislation is going nowhere."
"This idea of private individuals transferring their weapons and having to go through a background check makes no sense," he said. "But I would like to have a robust debate about improving the system to make sure that people who are mentally ill do not get a gun, to begin with. And there's a lot we can do on a bipartisan basis."
A universal requirement for background checks, opponents say, would unnecessarily require firearm transfers on such innocent handoffs such as between family members. Many say the current focus should be on improving the current system's record-keeping or insuring individuals with mental health issues are included in the database.
But proponents say the so-called gun show loophole means as many as 40% of gun sales are not subject to the type of background check which could keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. Some reject requiring gun sellers to keep records of the background checks they conduct.
The National School Shield Project of the National Rifle Association unveiled on Tuesday its plan for improving school safety which included training and arming adults to decrease response time to a shooting incident. The NRA tasked the panel with developing recommendations in reaction to the Newtown shooting.
The group did not include gun restrictions such as background checks in their review.
Meanwhile Vice President Joe Biden, who led Obama's gun violence prevention task force earlier this year, has recently stepped up his lobbying for the proposed gun control initiatives, including placing calls to members of Congress in both parties, according to a senior administration official.
The official told CNN Biden recently met with Republican Sens. Graham, John McCain of Arizona and Johnny Isakson of Georgia. The Hill newspaper first reported the meetings.
With the Senate expected to soon take up the gun control bill, the official said Biden, who spent almost 40 years as a senator, could be expected to intensify his efforts, including spending more time with his former colleagues.
At the White House, Carney underscored the Obama administration's commitment to such legislation.
"If it were simple to pass measures through Congress that are very common sense but would reduce gun violence in America, those measures would have passed already," he said. "The goal of those, like the president, who are trying to improve the system is to close loopholes within it that make it imperfect, that allow those who should not obtain weapons to obtain them.
"And this is something we're working on very closely with members of both parties, and that's why the president is going to Denver, that's why the president is going to Hartford."
-- CNN's Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta, Paul Steinhauser and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report