The Obama administration is considering a possible end run around the National Rifle Association to win approval for sweeping new gun control measures that may include universal background checks for people who purchase firearms in the U.S. and tougher penalties for anyone carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, according to a published report.
Citing multiple sources privy to White House discussions, The Washington Post on Saturday also reported
that officials want to track the movement and sale of weapons in a national database and plan to seek tougher mental health checks on gun purchasers under various proposals being considered by a working group led by Vice President Joe Biden.
The Biden group is expected to submit a package of recommendations to President Obama this month, according to the Post.
The paper said that administration officials may try to enlist the support of Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, and various other gun sellers in the case of measures that would benefit their businesses. The Post said that New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may emerge as a powerful surrogate with respect to gun control for President Obama.
Referring to the shooting rampage that killed 20 first graders as the worst day of his presidency, President Obama pledged last week to put his "full weight" behind legislation aimed at preventing gun violence.
The president also voiced skepticism about the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in schools following the Dec. 14 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The comments were made in an interview that aired last Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Obama vowed to rally the American people around an agenda to limit gun violence, adding that he still supports increased background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity bullet magazines. He left no doubt it will be one of his top priorities next year.
"It is not enough for us to say, `This is too hard so we're not going to try,'" Obama said.
"I think there are a vast majority of responsible gun owners out there who recognize that we can't have a situation in which somebody with severe psychological problems is able to get the kind of high capacity weapons that this individual in Newtown obtained and gun down our kids," he added. "And, yes, it's going to be hard."
The president added that he's ready to meet with Republicans and Democrats, anyone with a stake in the issue.
The schoolhouse shootings, coming as families prepared for the holidays, have elevated the issue of gun violence to the forefront of public attention. Six adult staff members were also killed at the elementary school. Shooter Adam Lanza committed suicide, apparently as police closed in. Earlier, he had killed his mother at the home they shared.
The tragedy immediately prompted calls for greater gun controls. But the NRA is strongly resisting those efforts, arguing instead that schools should have armed guards for protection. Some gun enthusiasts have rushed to buy semiautomatic rifles of the type used by Lanza, fearing sales may soon be restricted.
Obama seemed unimpressed by the NRA proposal. "I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools," he said. "And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem."
The president said he intends to press the issue with the public.
"The question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away," Obama said. "It certainly won't feel like that to me. This is something that — you know, that was the worst day of my presidency. And it's not something that I want to see repeated."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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