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White House: Vote on assault weapons ban is 'progress'

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White House spokesman Josh Earnest disputed criticisms that President Obama has not engaged enough on gun control since the December shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn. saying Wednesday the fact that the U.S. Senate will be voting on a ban on so-called assault weapons “represents progress” on the issue.

“[T]wo days … after the tragedy in Newtown, the president spoke pretty eloquently about steps that Congress should take,” Mr. Earnest said. “Three days later he stood at this podium, in this room, where he appointed — or he asked the vice president to take the lead here, at least initially, in coming up with some ideas. But even in those remarks, he talked about and challenged Congress to pass legislation on banning military-style assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines and closing loopholes in the background check system.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, decided not to include a ban in the “base bill” he plans to introduce after Congress’ two-week Easter recess, but he said he’ll allow it to be offered as an amendment on the floor.

Mr. Earnest said the fact that there will be a vote on banning military-style, semiautomatic weapons in the Senate “represents progress.”

“I can’t stand here and guarantee that it’s going to pass, but it is a question that 100 senators are going to ask themselves when [they] wake up in the morning and look themselves in the mirror about … which side they’re going to be on when it comes to voting on a ban on military-style assault weapons,” Mr. Earnest said.

Congress passed a similar ban in 1994 that lapsed in 2004.

Mr. Obama will also host an event Thursday at the White House to talk about ways to protect children from gun violence with mothers, law enforcement officials, victims of gun violence and other stakeholders, Mr. Earnest said.

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