The White House has said that President Barack Obama is “actively supportive” of efforts in the US Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that Obama would also support legislation to close the gun show “loophole”, which allows people to buy guns from private dealers without background checks.
The president has pledged to address gun violence in the coming weeks following Friday’s deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school that killed 26 people, including 20 children and six adults.
Obama had vowed to use “whatever power this office holds” to protect American children from gun violence, suggesting he may put political muscle behind the assault weapons ban. He has long supported reinstating the ban, which expired in 2004, but never pressed for it in his first term.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, plans to introduce legislation to reinstate the ban early next year.
Also on Tuesday, Obama spoke with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat and avid hunter who is now supportive of a national discussion on preventing gun violence.
The US public has been split over tougher gun laws, and there is no early indication that the Newtown shootings are changing many minds.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted over the weekend showed 54 per cent favour tougher laws, about the same as the 51 per cent in favour earlier in the year. Seven in 10 are opposed to banning the sale of handguns to anyone except law enforcement officers, the highest percentage since 1999.
Obama’s bid for a national discussion on gun violence may be helped by several prominent gun-rights advocates in Congress now backing his call.
“Everything should be on the table,” Manchin declared on Monday. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of
Iowa proposed a debate not just about guns but also about mental issues.
Virginia’s Mark Warner, one of the few Senate Democrats who has found favour with gun rights groups, reversed course to back restrictions on assault weapons.
“The status quo is not acceptable anymore,” he said.
Harry Reid, the Democrat majority leader, vowed that Congress would soon “engage in a meaningful conversation and thoughtful debate about how to change laws and culture that allow violence to grow”.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on gun violence early next year.