Obama’s Strategy on Guns: Less Compromise, More Confrontation

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  January 17, 2013 at 8:57 AM EDT

President Obama; photo by Jason Reed/Reuters

After unveiling gun control proposals at the White House on Wednesday, President Obama high-fives 8-year-old Hinna Zejah, who was among many children who wrote to the president after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

The Morning Line

Still three days from the start of his second term, President Obama on Wednesday unveiled his comprehensive plan to address gun violence, making clear that his strategy for pushing his legislative agenda would involve a little less compromise and a little more confrontation.

“I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try,” Mr. Obama said, flanked by Vice President Biden, who led the administration’s task force on the issue.

Coming just over a month after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 26 dead, including 20 children, Mr. Obama laid out a series of steps that he recommended Congress pass, such as renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons, limiting the number of bullets in a magazine to 10 and requiring universal background checks for all gun sales.

Mr. Obama also approved 23 executive orders, which included appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence.

“I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe,” said Mr. Obama. “But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it. And by the way, that doesn’t just mean from certain parts of the country. We’re going to need voices in those areas, in those congressional districts, where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important.”

With Republicans on Capitol Hill unlikely to embrace his recommendations, the burden of advancing the plan will fall on Democrats, some of whom are supporters of gun rights.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., released a statement thanking the president for his “thoughtful recommendations” and saying he was committed to making sure the Senate considered legislation to address “gun violence and other aspects of violence in our society early this year.” Reid did not endorse any of the specific proposals laid out in the president’s blueprint and has previously expressed doubts about whether a ban on assault weapons could pass Congress.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that the committees of jurisdiction would review the recommendations. “And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that,” said Michael Steel.

The National Rifle Association came down quickly against Mr. Obama’s plan.

“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation,” the organization said in a statement. “Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

The NRA also released an ad that calls Mr. Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for failing to support putting an armed guard in all of the country’s schools while his daughters receive Secret Service protection.

“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the ad’s narrator asks. “Then why is he ‘skeptical’ about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?”

White House press secretary Jay Carney condemned the video on Wednesday. “Most Americans agree that a president’s children should not be used as pawns in a political fight,” Carney said. “But to go so far as to make the safety of the president’s children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly.”

Lawmakers are laying down their terms for the debate about one month from Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address on Feb. 12, which is expected to include echoes of Wednesday’s announcement.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., made clear Wednesday that she will push her renewed version of the assault weapons ban even if it has no chance of passage, and Democrats held an emotional hearing about gun violence.

As Mr. Obama prepared to make his announcement, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, sent a message to their new email list asking which solutions to gun violence could draw the most support.

Among the options listed in their poll: universal background checks for gun purchases, limiting high capacity magazines, a ban on assault weapons, imposing stricter laws on gun trafficking and addressing mental illness.

Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, said he would pursue legislative efforts to block Mr. Obama’s orders, and if those fail, consider introducing articles of impeachment against Mr. Obama. “Impeachment is not something to be taken lightly,” Stockman said in a statement. “It is a grave and serious undertaking that should only be initiated in a sober and serious manner. It should be reserved only for most egregious of trespasses by the president.”

The Texas attorney general is inviting New Yorkers opposed to their state’s new legislation to move to Texas, where the gun laws are less restrictive. And Mississippi lawmakers are exploring ways they can circumvent any of Mr. Obama’s gun control plans.

The NewsHour explored the angles for most of the program Wednesday.

We began by laying out the details. Watch that report here or below:

Jeffrey Brown got four perspectives on the issue: Josh Horwitz from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, David Kopel of the Independence Institute, Georgetown University School of Medicine‘s Dr. Liza Gold and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

Watch the discussion here or below:

You can watch Mr. Obama’s announcement here or below:

Finally, we want to hear from you.

Consider this your open thread.

LINE ITEMS

  • Former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing to be defense secretary is scheduled for Jan. 31.

  • Mr. Obama plans to name deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough as his new chief of staff.

  • Roll Call’s Meredith Shiner gets the skinny on what appears to be some 2016 motion from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. He is “taking a pass on next week’s crowded inaugural festivities in order to attend a much more intimate gathering: The Monday Meeting, a closed-door, off-the-record gathering of top conservatives in South Carolina,” she writes.

  • Speaking of the next presidential race, Politico sees gun control as a defining issue.

  • Former President Bill Clinton said at a conference that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is “very, very healthy” and: “She’s still got time to have three more husbands after me. So I think she’ll live to be 120.”

  • Roll Call’s Joshua Miller rounds up the National Republican Congressional Committee’s top targets for the 2014 midterms.

  • Politico’s Alex Isenstadt finds that Democrats have few options for reclaiming House control in two years.

  • The official inaugural schedule is out. On Sunday, Biden will take his oath at 8:15 a.m. ET at the Naval Observatory. Mr. Obama gets his turn in the White House Blue Room at 11:55 a.m. ET

  • The Root’s Lawrence Bobo writes that Mr. Obama’s inaugural address “must signal that he’ll leave a lasting legacy … that he will seek greatness in his second term.”

  • Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey tells NPR that Mr. Obama’s health care law is a form of fascism, not socialism, as he has said before. “Technically speaking, it’s more like fascism. Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn’t own the means of production, but they do control it — and that’s what’s happening with our health care programs and these reforms,” Mackey said.

  • Mark Sanford checked in with his ex-wife before deciding to run for his old House seat.

  • Thurday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at the 55,000 square feet of living space that is the president’s house at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • The Daily Download team of Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn interviewed Obama campaign tech guru Harper Reed. Watch below:
  • Here is part two of the PBS Frontline discussion with Christina, Michael Grunwald, David Weigel, James Fallows, Heidi Moore and Peter Baker about Mr. Obama’s second term challenges.

  • The NewsHour’s Art Beat team looked at the words used by presidents.

  • Ellen Rolfes interviewed the architect of the Capitol about his role in inaugural preparations.

TOP TWEETS

Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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