MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With his gun proposals dividing Congress, President Barack Obama took his case for universal background checks and for banning some military-style weapons to the upper Midwest on Monday, looking to build public support for his measures and to apply pressure on lawmakers.
Obama argued that there's bipartisan support for a system to undertake criminal checks on gun buyers and for gun trafficking laws but, acknowledging the political challenges he faces, would only say that the assault weapons ban deserves a vote in Congress.
"We don't have to agree on everything to agree it's time to do something," he said.
Before his remarks, Obama held a roundtable discussion at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, speaking with law enforcement and community leaders.
Obama made his pitch in Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning state where officials have been studying ways to reduce gun-related attacks and accidents for several years. His visit to the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center will mark the first time Obama has campaigned on his controversial proposals outside of Washington.
"Changing the status quo is never easy," Obama said. "This will be no exception. The only way we can reduce gun violence in this county is if it the American people decide it's important, if you decide it's important — parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say, 'This time, it's got to be different.'"
Ahead of the trip, the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David, the presidential retreat. Obama cited skeet shooting when asked in a recent interview whether he had ever shot a gun.
The president unveiled his sweeping package of proposals for curbing gun violence last month in response to the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. He vowed to use the full weight of his office to fight for the proposals, many of which face tough opposition from congressional lawmakers and the powerful National Rifle Association.
The reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, is expected to be the steepest climb for Obama. Universal background checks for gun purchasers may have an easier time passing Congress, though the NRA also opposes that measure.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said Obama remained committed to the assault weapons ban and that it was too early to write off prospects for any parts of the package.
"We all recognize that all the components of this are difficult and face challenges, some perhaps even more than others," Carney said. "But the president's support is firm and clear."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has said he hopes his panel can write gun legislation this month, though it's unclear what it will contain.
The White House picked Minneapolis as the backdrop for Obama's remarks in part because of recent steps the city has taken to tackle gun violence, including a push for stricter background checks.
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