As the Senate opens debate on legislation to expand background checks of gun purchases, President Obama said Tuesday he thinks public sentiment will compel lawmakers to approve the measure.
"I think we've got a good chance of seeing it pass if the members of Congress are listening to the American people," Mr. Obama said in an interview with "Today" show co-host Savannah Guthrie. "The notion that Congress would defy the overwhelming instinct of the American people after what we saw in Newtown is, I think, unimaginable."
The December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 first-grade students and six educators.
The compromise provisions the Senate will begin debating Tuesday would expand background checks to gun shows and internet sales, while exempting personal transactions like those among family members.
The amendment by Sens. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, and Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, allows for interstate firearm sales and prevents states from enforcing local gun laws when gun owners transport guns across state lines.
Some gun-rights supporters worry that expanded background cheeks could eventually lead to a national registry, which could then be exploited to seize weapons from individuals. Vice President Joseph R. Biden and other administration officials have said that won't happen.
While prospects for the legislation in the Senate are uncertain, the House is even less likely to approve new gun-control measures.
Mr. Obama said the Newtown massacre should provide the incentive for Congress to approve gun-control laws.
"All of us have to reflect on, what we did or didn't do after Newtown," he said. The interview took place Monday at the White House.
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