- The Washington Times - Monday, January 14, 2013

President Obama said Monday that opponents of gun control legislation are fanning unfounded fears that the government is plotting a gun grab, as the White House prepared to lay out a wish list it wants to see Congress adopt in the wake of last month’s school shooting.

Mr. Obama said he’d like to see a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style, so-called “assault weapons,” and he called for expanding background checks — though he said it was unclear what will actually be able to clear Congress.

And in the face of record-high gun sales, he said some people are manufacturing a crisis, in part to enrich themselves.

“I think that we’ve seen for some time now that those who oppose any common-sense gun control or gun safety measures have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government is about to take all your guns away,” he said. “And there’s probably an economic element to that. It obviously is good for business.”

The FBI reported a record-high 2.8 million background checks for gun purchases in December, up from 2 million in November and 1.9 million from December 2011.

Mr. Obama said law-abiding gun owners shouldn’t fear his proposals, due later this week, which he said are only designed to prevent mass shootings such as last month’s rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Gun-rights supporters, though, said they have reason to be wary.

Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas Republican, said he could file articles of impeachment against Mr. Obama should the president try to use executive powers to enact gun control.

“The very purpose of the Second Amendment is to stop the government from disallowing people the means to defend themselves against tyranny,” he said. “Any proposal to abuse executive power and infringe upon gun rights must be repelled with the stiffest legislative force possible.”

Mr. Obama said any executive action, such as moves to improve information on guns that end up in the hands of criminals, would not infringe on law-abiding gun owners’ Second Amendment rights.

“I think that those of us who look at this problem have repeatedly said that responsible gun owners, people who have a gun for protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship, they don’t have anything to worry about,” Mr. Obama said.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is expected to unveil a set of recommendations on combating gun violence Tuesday, and Mr. Obama said he will discuss them in greater detail this week. Mr. Biden has spent the last month huddling with members of law enforcement, gun owners and gun safety groups, faith leaders, educators and others to get input on the issue.

On Monday, Mr. Biden talked with members of congressional Democrats’ Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Another issue many lawmakers and advocates have mentioned is mental health — a particular focus of Rep. Ron Barber, Arizona Democrat, who was at the meeting.

Mr. Barber, former chief of staff to then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was among those wounded two years ago when a gunman killed six people and wounded 13 at one of the congresswoman’s outdoor town halls.

Ms. Giffords was also severely wounded.

Mr. Barber is reintroducing a bill that would provide training to help people identify and respond to signs of mental illness.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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