- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2012

A day after President Obama vowed in a speech to “leave no stone unturned” in his quest to reduce gun violence, his spokesman said the president’s efforts won’t include any new gun-control proposals.

“There are things that we can do, short of legislation and short of gun laws, as the president said, that can reduce violence in our society,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “We do need to take a broader look at what we can do to reduce violence in America. And that’s not just legislative, and it’s not just about gun laws.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, spoke similarly Thursday, ruling out any action on gun control this year, saying his chamber was too busy with other things.

“With the schedule we have, we’re not going to do anything on gun control,” Mr. Reid told reporters.

In the wake of the Colorado movie-theater massacre, progressives have been urging Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats to impose new gun restrictions, and the president seemed receptive to that clamor Wednesday night in a speech to the National Urban League.

He spoke of the need for stricter background checks on gun purchases, and said he intended to “work with members in both parties” in Congress to reduce gun violence.

But the president’s re-election campaign is also worried about turning away independent, white male voters in November, which could partly explain the administration’s reluctance to wage a high-profile battle in Congress for new guns laws.

Mr. Carney said the president doesn’t even plan to renew a call to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons, which he campaigned on four years ago. The ban expired in 2004. One of the weapons used in the Colorado was a semi-automatic civilian version of the U.S. military’s M-16 rifle.

“The president supports [a ban],” Mr. Carney said. “He [also] recognizes there’s a stalemate in Congress.”

The administration supports more exhaustive background checks by the Justice Department to prevent people who are mentally unstable from purchasing firearms. But a review by the Associated Press found that 24-year-old James Holmes, the suspected killer in the Colorado shootings, passed all of his background checks before buying an assault rifle, a shotgun and two handguns.

Replied Mr. Carney, “I don’t think the president ever suggested that the background check could stop every crime from occurring in America, and even … one as heinous as this.”

The drumbeat in Mr. Obama’s party for more onerous gun laws has been growing since the slayings on Friday. And New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, an independent, said Monday that police officers nationwide should “stand up collectively and say ‘we’re going to go on strike’ ” unless government enacts stricter gun-control measures to protect officers.

Mr. Bloomberg, co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, later acknowledged that it’s illegal for police in New York City to strike and said he didn’t mean it literally. He said he has attended too many funerals of slain police officers, and favors measures to limit the firepower available to people on the street.

“We’re not getting any help from Washington,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “We’re not getting any help from either side of the aisle, either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Some police ridiculed Mr. Bloomberg’s suggestion that they go on strike. Frank Borelli, a retired police officer and former military policeman, said the mayor’s comments were “stupid” and that police officers take an oath to protect and serve.

“They are the kind of men and women who volunteer to run TOWARD the sound of shots instead of away from them,” Mr. Borelli wrote in a blog post on the website Officer.com. “They are the kind of people who hold honor close in their hearts and they feel the weight of their duty …  a duty they won’t shirk simply to serve some politician’s agenda.”

But the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, an alliance of nine major national police leadership groups, called Thursday for background checks on all firearms purchases and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. The group said nearly half of all gun sales are unregulated. Efforts by gun-control advocates to renew the ban on assault weapons, to restrict the sale of large-capacity magazine clips and to require more stringent background checks have failed.

“The nation is waiting for lawmakers to move beyond hand-wringing and shoulder-shrugging in response to these mass catastrophes,” said Hubert Williams, the group’s chairman. “These mass murders are neither acceptable, nor inevitable. There are numerous public safety initiatives — that are backed by the public and law enforcement — that will reduce the frequency and severity of this type of carnage.”

House Minority Leader Nancy E. Pelosi, California Democrat, said she agreed with Mr. Obama that “we need to build a national consensus to reduce violence in our country.”

“There are important voices on all sides of this issue,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “We all recognize the importance of the Second Amendment and the need to — and also the need to reduce violence in our communities.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the most “appropriate” step for the federal government is to make sure existing gun laws are being enforced.

“That would be the most logical step forward at this point,” Mr. Boehner said.

Asked about the president’s comment that military-style weapons such as the AK-47 belong “in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals,” Mr. Boehner replied: “AK-47s are not allowed to be in the hands of criminals. That is the law. And if the president has proposals on other ways that we can address criminals owning guns I’ll be happy to look at it.”

Mr. Carney said the president was trying to make a broader point in his speech to the Urban League about the need to combat violence on many different fronts.

“We also must recognize that it is not enough to debate the role of government in reducing violence,” Mr. Carney said. “It is up to parents, teachers, neighbors and communities to make a difference in the lives of our young people as well. We need to take a broader look at it and try to tackle it from a number of different directions, which this president has been doing through his administration.”

Sean Lengell contributed to this report.

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