Obama unsure Congress will pass gun limits

WASHINGTON — President Obama endorsed controversial bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines on Monday, as well as stricter background checks for gun buyers — but conceded he may not win approval of all in a Congress reluctant to tighten restrictions.

‘‘Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,’’ said Obama. He said lawmakers would have to ‘‘examine their own conscience’’ as they tackle gun control legislation after the horrifying Connecticut school shootings.

Obama spoke at a news conference one month after the Newtown elementary school rampage, which ignited a national discussion on preventing mass shootings.


The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden’s task force. It is expected to include legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement using presidential powers.

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But the most sweeping and contentious elements — including an assault weapons ban — will require approval from a Congress that has been loath to tackle gun control legislation for more than a decade.

The politically powerful National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups have vowed to fight any measure that would limit access to guns and ammunition, a position that could sway Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Despite the opposition, Obama said he would ‘‘vigorously pursue’’ measures to tighten gun laws. ‘‘My starting point is not to worry about the politics,’’ he said.

The president’s new resolve follows a lack of movement in tackling gun violence through his first term, despite several high-profile shootings. He called the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School the worst day of his presidency.


On Monday, legislative leaders in New York state tentatively agreed on a package of changes to gun laws. The proposal, if passed, would make New York the first state to ban any gun magazine that can hold more than seven rounds of ammunition — the current state limit is 10 rounds — and the first to require background checks of ammunition buyers and alerts to law enforcement of high-volume purchases, according to a state official.

White House officials believe moving swiftly on gun proposals at a national level, before the shock over the Newtown shooting fades, gives Obama the best chance to get his proposals passed.

The assault weapons ban, which Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest road on Capitol Hill. Congress passed a 10-year ban on the military-style weapons in 1994, but supporters did not have the votes to renew it once it expired in 2004.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, has predicted a ban might win Senate approval but doubted it could pass in the GOP-led House.

Obama will also need congressional help to limit high-capacity magazines, like the ones used by the Newtown shooter, and to require background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun. The proposals are also expected to include steps for improving school safety and mental health care.

Material from The New York Times was used in this report.