White House: Still committed to assault weapons ban

Friday, January 11, 2013 - 2:00pm

President Barack Obama will seek passage of an assault weapons ban as part of a larger push for new gun control laws, an administration official said Friday.

Vice President Joe Biden left out the idea of such a ban when he laid out a series of potential proposals under consideration by his gun task force Thursday. Instead, he focused on a new universal background check system for gun buyers and restrictions on high capacity magazines.

The omission fueled speculation in news reports that the White House had dropped consideration of a potential assault weapons ban.

"Those reports are false," White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said. "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."

The vice president has spent the last week meeting with what the White House calls "stakeholders" in the gun control debate. In a series of face to face discussions Thursday, Biden sat down with the National Rifle Association and other gun owners groups before conferring with representatives from the film and television industry.

Administration officials note Biden's comments on Thursday were aimed at "consensus" proposals coming out of the task force meetings. An assault weapons ban would not fit that category.

In a sign the White House is prepared to move aggressively on its proposals, Biden made his public comments just before meeting with the NRA. The gun lobby expressed disappointment in its discussion with the vice president and later released a statement that accused the administration of mounting "an agenda to attack the Second Amendment."

Organizations seeking tougher gun control laws insist an assault weapons ban is critical to addressing the nation's recent rash of mass shootings. However, such a ban could be difficult in a Congress mired in gridlock.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said it would be premature to comment on the vice president's remarks. The Biden task force is expected to deliver its recommendations to the president on Tuesday.

"Once the President makes some recommendations, we'll take a look at them," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. 

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