Gun Control Advocates Ready To Give Obama Cover If Assault Weapons Ban Goes Down

If White House efforts to prevent gun violence doesn’t result in a new ban on so-called assault weapons, President Obama may have a group of disappointed supporters to deal with. But gun control advocates won’t be among them.

The Obama administration is pushing back hard on a Friday New York Times report that Vice President Biden and White House officials have calculated it’s politically impossible to get an assault weapons ban through the divided Congress and have therefore shifted their focus to other more palatable gun violence prevention aims like universal background checks and regulations on high-capacity magazines.“The President has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option,” Matt Lehrich, a White House spokesperson told TPM Friday in response to the Times piece.

While a failure by Obama to deliver a ban after his strong words following the Newtown shooting would likely be seen as a political loss in general, gun control advocates in particular say otherwise. The priority for them, they say, is universal background checks.

“The single biggest problem that the administration can solve is making sure every [firearms] buyer gets a background check,” Mark Glaze told TPM Friday. Glaze is the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Michael Bloomberg’s gun control advocacy group. “Nearly 50% of buyers never get one, and that is the dominant problem in gun policy in this country.”

The Brady Campaign took a similar position on background checks in the Times story Friday, another sign that the gun control crowd is ready to back Obama up if his push for an assault weapons ban sputters out in the face of congressional gridlock. “It’s very important to point out that background checks could have an even bigger impact,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, told the paper.

The NRA has officially opposed the closure of the so-called “gun show loophole” for years, but gun control supporters say polling is on their side when it comes to background checks, and they say bolstering the background system would have a big impact on gun violence.

Since his first campaign for the presidency, Obama has supported a new ban on assault weapons. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a version of a ban earlier this month, and it remains the focus of many gun control-supporting lawmakers when it comes to dealing with gun violence.

The National Rifle Association and other gun rights supporters have continued to make it clear that any kind of weapons ban is unacceptable. With conservative Republicans in the House already itching to go to war with Obama over guns, it’s easy to see why a political oddsmaker might bet against the passage of a new assault weapons ban in 2013.

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