POLITICS

Obama not seeking new gun laws, White House says

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Even as the issue of guns shifts to the forefront of the presidential campaign, the White House and the Senate's top Democrat made it clear Thursday that new gun legislation will not be on the political agenda this year.

President Obama campaigns in Virginia

President Obama campaigns in Virginia 5 Photos
President Obama campaigns in Virginia

Instead, President Barack Obama intends to focus on other ways to combat gun violence - a position not unlike that of his rival, Mitt Romney.

Days after the mass shootings in Colorado, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama still supports a ban on the sale of assault weapons, a restriction that expired in 2004.

But he added: "There are things we can do short of legislation and short of gun laws that can reduce violence in our society."

Carney's comments came the day after Obama, in a speech to an African-American group Wednesday in New Orleans, embraced some degree of additional restrictions on guns.

He acknowledged that not enough had been done to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and pledged to work with lawmakers from both parties to move forward on the matter.

Carney also spoke as a prominent gun control group called on Obama and Romney to lead a search for solutions to gun violence.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said both candidates owe voters concrete plans and appealed to them not to duck the issue.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Senate would not consider the gun issue this year, even though he agreed with Obama's remarks in New Orleans.

"With the schedule we have, we're not going to even have a debate on gun control," Reid told reporters.

The White House and Reid's stance illustrate a reality in Washington, where advocating for restrictions on gun ownership is viewed as a political liability.

Acknowledging opposition in Congress to new limits, Carney said Obama will work to enhance existing gun laws.

"While there is that stalemate in Congress there are other things we can do," he said.

Obama told the National Urban League in New Orleans that he was willing to work with both parties in Congress to find a national consensus that addresses violence.

That speech came six days after the shooting in an Aurora, Col., movie theater that left 12 people dead and injured dozens more.

Romney, in a television interview Wednesday, said changing the nation's laws would not prevent gun-related tragedies.

But he said many weapons used by the shooting suspect in Aurora, Colo., were obtained illegally, despite the fact that authorities have said the firearms used were purchased legally.

"The illegality the governor is referencing is the ordinances, the devices that were in the home," said campaign spokesman Danny Diaz. "He was not referencing the weapons carried to the theater."

Obama called for stepped-up background checks for people who want to buy guns and restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons. He said those steps "shouldn't be controversial."

Despite the Second Amendment's protection of gun rights, Obama said: "I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that an AK-47 belongs in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals - that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities."

Neither candidate strayed significantly Wednesday from previously held positions on gun violence.

But their pointed comments revived a debate - if perhaps only briefly - that has steadily faded to the background in national politics and been virtually non-existent in the 2012 campaign.

The White House in particular has faced fresh questions since the shootings about whether Obama, a strong supporter of gun control as a senator from Illinois, would make an election-year push for stricter measures.

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