Barack Obama calls for tougher background checks for Americans buying guns

 

US President Barack Obama has called for tougher background checks on Americans trying to buy a gun as he and Republican challenger Mitt Romney engaged in their most extensive discussions on the gun control issue since last week's massacre in a Colorado theatre.

Their pointed comments revived a debate - if briefly - that has faded to the background in national politics and been virtually non-existent in this year's close presidential race.

Mr Romney said in a television interview that changing the nation's laws would not prevent gun-related tragedies. He mistakenly said many weapons used by the shooting suspect were obtained illegally. Authorities say the firearms used to kill 12 people and injure dozens were purchased legally.

In his speech to the National Urban League civil rights group, Mr Obama said he wanted a national consensus in the effort to stem gun violence.

Despite the Second Amendment's protection of gun rights, Mr Obama said, "I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that an AK-47 belongs in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals - that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

Gun control is a hotly partisan issue in the US The powerful National Rifle Association, which fights gun control and has huge sway in Congress, has successfully made the issue nearly off limits among most legislators who fear the group's opposition at re-election time.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence challenged both Mr Obama and Mr Romney to lead a search for solutions to gun violence.

The group's president, Dan Gross, said it's shameful for leaders to play politics with the issue when lives could be saved.

The White House has faced fresh questions since the shootings about whether Mr Obama, a strong supporter of gun control while a senator from Illinois, would make an election-year push for stricter measures.

Mr Obama acknowledged a national pattern of failing to follow through on calls for tougher gun restrictions after violent crimes.

"Too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere," he said.

It's been more than a decade since gun control advocates had a realistic hope of getting the type of legislation they seek, despite predictions that each shocking outburst of violence would lead to action.

Mr Obama pledged to work with lawmakers of both parties to stop violence, including the steady drip of urban crime that has cost many young lives. That's an important issue to the black community, whose turnout in 2008 helped him win the White House.

The president called for stricter background checks for people who want to purchase guns and restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons. Those steps "shouldn't be controversial, they should be common sense," he said.

Still, Mr Obama is unlikely to make a robust push for new gun control legislation while mired in a deadlocked campaign centred squarely on the economy.

Mr Romney, pressed on the gun control issue in an NBC news interview during a visit to London, said changing laws won't "make all bad things go away." He was meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron and attending the opening of the Olympic Games before heading to Israel and Poland.

Mr Romney was asked about his tenure as Massachusetts governor, when he signed a bill that banned some assault-style weapons like the type the Colorado shooter is alleged to have used. At the time, Romney described such guns as "instruments of destruction, with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people."

Asked if he stood by those comments, Mr Romney mentioned the Massachusetts ban but said he didn't think current national laws needed to change.

"I don't happen to believe that America needs new gun laws. A lot of what this ... young man did was clearly against the law. But the fact that it was against the law did not prevent it from happening," he said.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable