Obama: `Weapon of War’ Has No Place in American Communities

Photograph by Scott Olson/Getty Images

A customer purchases an AK-47 style rifle for about $1200 at a sporting goods store on Dec. 17, 2012 in Tinley Park, Illinois.

A “weapon of war” — President Barack Obama’s term today for the semi-automatic assault rifle used in the slaying of schoolchildren and educators in Newtown, Connecticut, a weapon that he is urging Congress to ban.

The president, vowing that he is not simply appointing another “Washington commission,” has assigned Vice President Joe Biden to recommend a series of actions no later than January and is pressing Congress to act on assault weapons quickly.

The political environment may be ripe for the sort of action that the president pledged today

It was Sen. Joe Manchin who opened a 2012 campaign commercial cocking a shotgun.

So it’s significant, now, to hear the West Virginia Democrat, an A-rated member of the National Rifle Association, saying enough is enough in the argument over gun rights. It stops at semi-automatic weapons and jumbo ammunition clips, he says — the sort of the weapon deployed in the slaughter of 20 schoolchildren, six educators and the mother of the gunman in Newtown. Manchin, who kept his distance from Obama during the election campaign — the president lost every county in West Virginia — has been on the phone with him this week.

In the aftermath of that Newtown shooting, the second worst mass shooting in the U.S. and the most shocking for its primary targets — nearly two dozen first-graders — Obama has pledged “whatever power” he holds to avert tragedies like this going forward.

Today, Obama tapped  Biden, who served for decades in the Senate and knows well the lawmakers who will be at the forefront of the movement — and in any post-Newtown coalition — for any legislative and executive action.

“’We may never know all the reasons why this tragedy happened,” Obama said today in the West Wing, with Biden by his side. “We do know that, every day since, more Americans have died of gun violence.

“If there is anything we can do to prevent” these tragedies, “we have a deep obligation to try…. to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every day,” the president said. “There is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” he said, pointing to a need to address mental health services as well as “a culture that all too often glorifies guns.”

Biden will return with a plan no later than January, Obama said — “proposals that I intend to push without delay… This is not some Washington commission… this is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms, right now.”

“A majority of Americans support the banning of assault weapons” and banning clips of multiple rounds, he said. “I urge the new Congress to hold votes” on these measures in a timely manner.

“Like a majority of Americans, I believe the Second Amendment provides a strong right to bear arms,” he said. “The vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible.”

“But I am also betting that the majority, the vast majority, of responsible, law-abiding gun owners” would agree we should be available to prevent an irresponsible few from buying “a weapon of war.”


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