Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the White House press corps today that the Obama Administration will continue to push for a national assault weapons ban despite Harry Reid’s announcement last week that he would not bring the ban to the Senate as part of a broader gun violence bill. President Barack Obama continues to urge the Senate to vote publicly on the proposal as an amendment even though, as Harry Reid stated earlier, they may not have the votes.
“The President thinks that is really important,” Earnest said. “And it will be a question for all 100 members of the Senate to ask themselves about whether or not they think that voting for and supporting an assault weapons ban would actually do something to reduce gun violence in communities all across the country. So we’re going to have that debate.”
Earnest’s statement should not come as a surprise. Since speaking out against gun violence following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School last year, the Obama administration and many prominent Democrats have made passing an assault weapons ban a high priority.
“The Vice President led a process at the beginning of this year where they met with scores of groups and individuals who are invested in both protecting the Second Amendment and reducing gun violence in our communities,” Earnest said. “And that process of those series of meetings yielded 23 executive actions that the President initiated right away, and a whole set of legislative proposals that we’ve put forward to Congress.”
In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the SAFE Act, the strictest statewide gun control measure in the country. Following Reid’s announcement that he was dropping the bill last week, Vice President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed for Congress to remain committed to passing what Biden called “simple common sense” gun control measures.
“Because the vast majority of the American people, the vast majority of gun owners, even close to a majority of NRA members, who only represent four million of the gun owners in America, think what the mayor has been pushing and what the president has proposed is just simple common sense,” Biden said.
Resistance has been strong. The National Rifle Association has been a staunch critic of passing any gun control measures, claiming that stripping away any access to guns is threatens all people’s right to bear arms under the second amendment. Last week, the NRA and other organizations challenged New York’s gun control measure in court.
President Obama did not back away from the issue. He made gun violence the topic of last week’s weekly address:
“Right now, we have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America.” -President Obama in his Weekly Address: youtu.be/GpdoHwhhCf0
— The White House (@whitehouse) March 23, 2013
In today’s White House Briefing, Earnest told reporters that the President is not seeking a national gun registry. President Obama supports background checks but believes these can be performed without a national list of all people owning guns within the US.
Whether or not measures implementing an assault weapons ban or background checks stand a chance of passing through the Senate, a vote would put each Senator on record and give both sides something to campaign on. At the very least, a vote would bring further attention to the issue, increasing the chance of winning future fights even if the current battle is lost.
By keeping the rhetoric turned up, the Obama administration may have a long game in mind when it comes to someday turning background checks or an assault weapons ban into law.