White House: Obama Supports Renewing Assault Weapons Ban — But Congress Won’t Act

President Obama supports reinstating the assault weapons ban, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday, on the heels of back-to-back shooting rampages in the United States.

As a presidential candidate, Obama supported renewal of the 1994-2004 federal ban on manufacturing some semi-automatic weapons for civilian use. But he hasn’t pushed for it as president, largely steering clear of the issue.

“He does support renewing the assault weapons ban,” Carney said at his press briefing, one day after a shooter killed six people at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin. In response to several questions, he added that “there has been reluctance by Congress to pass that renewal.”The top Obama spokesman reiterated several times that the administration intends to push for gun safety “under existing law” and “not infringe upon Second Amendment rights of citizens.” Evoking Obama’s recent speech in New Orleans, he said the president wants to improve background checks and enforce laws to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals.

The issue of gun control is increasingly toxic in Washington as Democrats, traditionally the standard bearers of the cause, are now at pains to go head-to-head with the powerful National Rifle Association. High-profile shootings — including the Tucson massacre that critically wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and last month’s Colorado rampage at a movie theater — have done little to change the dynamic.

The semi-automatic weapons used to carry out the Colorado and Wisconsin shootings were reportedly purchased legally by the alleged shooters.

Carney called gun safety “a broader problem that needs to be addressed from a variety of fronts.”

“The president’s approach is that we should work with Congress where possible — and administratively where allowed — to advance common-sense measures that enhance our security, that keep deadly weapons out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have them, under existing law, but that protects Second Amendment rights, which the president thinks is an important goal as well,” he said.

Gun laws aren’t an issue in the presidential election, although presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has claimed to be the candidate more friendly to gun rights.

“I’m sure he will discuss these issues again in the future,” Carney added.

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