President Obama presses for gun measures

President Obama unveiled his gun-control plans last month after the shootings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Craig Lassig/EPA
President Obama unveiled his gun-control plans last month after the shootings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

MINNEAPOLIS — President Obama declared Monday on his first trip outside Washington to promote gun control that a consensus is emerging for universal background checks for purchasers, though he conceded a tough road lay ahead to pass an assault weapons ban over formidable opposition in Congress.

‘‘We should restore the ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines,’’ Obama said in a brief speech in Minneapolis, standing firm on the gun-control measures he favors despite long odds.

Such a ban ‘‘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,’’ he said.


The president spoke from a special police operations center in a city once known to some as ‘‘Murderapolis’’ but where gun violence has dropped amid a push to address it from city leaders. Police officers stood behind him.

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The site conveyed Obama’s message that a reduction in violence can be achieved nationally, even if Americans have sharp disagreements over gun control. That includes among members of his own party in Washington. ‘‘We don’t have to agree on everything to agree it’s time to do something,’’ he said.

The president unveiled his gun-control plans last month after the shootings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. But many of the proposals face tough opposition from some in Congress and from the National Rifle Association.

Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, has said he wants to give the bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines a vote. But he will not say whether he will support either, and advocates and opponents alike predict they are unlikely to pass.

Putting the controversial measures up for a vote could put some Democratic senators in a tough spot. That includes some from conservative-leaning states who are up for reelection next year and risk angering either fervent gun-rights supporters or Obama and gun-control supporters in the party’s base.


Minneapolis’s Democratic mayor, R.T. Rybak, who accompanied Obama while he was in town, criticized Reid for declining to stand with the president. ‘‘He’s dancing around this issue and people are dying in this country,’’ Rybak said of Reid on MSNBC.

Cowan to be sworn in as senator on Thursday

WASHINGTON — William “Mo” Cowan, appointed to be the next US senator from Massachusetts, arrived at his office Monday but will not be sworn in as interim replacement for Secretary of State John Kerry until noon Thursday, a Senate aide said.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is on an overseas trip, will be back to administer Cowan’s oath of office on the Senate floor. Massachusetts hasn’t officially had a second senator since Kerry resigned Friday at 4 p.m.

Cowan plans to spend Tuesday and Wednesday at a policy retreat with Senate Democrats in Annapolis, Md. An aide said Cowan was not available for an interview Monday. No votes are slated to occur in the Senate before Cowan is sworn in.

Cowan, who was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick, is expected to work mostly in Kerry’s old office until the special election for the seat on June 25.


Upon being sworn in, Cowan will become the first African-American senator representing Massachusetts since Republican Edward W. Brooke in 1978. - DAVID UBERTI