Assault weapon move creates risks for Obama

By Andy Sullivan, Reuters

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama appears ready to gamble in the debate over gun control. By signaling on Monday that he will ask Congress to ban military-style assault weapons, Obama is embarking on a high-risk strategy that is likely to further inflame tensions with Republicans at a time when feelings already are raw because of a series of running budget battles. At a White House news conference, Obama said he favored a “meaningful” assault weapons ban, stronger background checks for gun buyers and tighter controls on high-capacity magazine clips in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre last month that brought the national debate over guns to the forefront. The Democratic president essentially is betting that any blowback from an assault-weapons plan would not doom other proposals that some Republicans may find more palatable. At the very least, Obama’s plan could make life more difficult for gun-friendly Democrats who are less enthusiastic about an assault-weapons ban. Obama will need their backing to pass the package of gun-control measures he plans to introduce this week after the Newtown shooting that killed 20 children and six adults. During the news conference, Obama acknowledged that he is not likely to get everything he wants. “Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said. “But what’s uppermost in my mind is making sure that I’m honest with the American people and with members of Congress about what I think will work.” Obama’s aggressive approach is likely to cheer gun-control advocates, who say that an assault-weapons ban could limit the scope of future attacks like the one in Newtown. But some observers said that given the emotional nature of the gun-control debate, Obama risks an overreach that could threaten other measures that enjoy broader political support. “If he tries to go too big on gun control, the narrative is going to turn too quickly against him,” said John Hudak, a fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution.

“If he pursues an assault weapons ban, it will fail and undermine his ability to get anything through Congress,” Hudak added. A Heavy Lift Obama is expected to reveal the details of his plan later this week after weighing proposals assembled by Vice President Joe Biden. A White House aide said the three ideas outlined by Obama on Monday would be the “bare minimum” of any proposal. Democratic Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia, who along with several other lawmakers met with Biden earlier on Monday, said he was not sure what Obama ultimately would recommend.