New York: President Barack Obama urged requiring background checks for all gun sales on Monday, traveling to the country’s heartland in Minneapolis, Minnesota to make the case for what he described as “common-sense” gun control measures.
In a city once called “Murder-apolis” because of an explosion of drug and gun violence in the 1990s, Obama highlighted its successful prevention efforts, and push for stricter background checks for gun owners as evidence that new laws are needed to stem gun deaths across America.
Minneapolis’ tough local measures brought down the city’s murder rate and helped it shed the nickname of "Murder-apolis." The city is now being held up by the White House as a community that's ahead of the curve in pushing the conversation on gun violence. It is clamouring for Congress to implement tougher gun laws.
“No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there's even one thing we can do, if there's just one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try," Obama said, standing in front of a sea of police officers at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center.
Expanding background checks to include sales at gun shows and other private transactions isn’t a conservative idea or a liberal idea – “that is a smart idea,” Obama said.
"The vast majority of Americans, including a majority of gun owners, support requiring criminal background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun," Obama said.
"So right now, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are working on a bill that would ban anyone from selling a gun to somebody legally prohibited from owning one. That's common sense. There's no reason we can't get that done."
The powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) has argued against Democrats' call for a new and stronger assault-weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity magazines and an expansion of the system of criminal background checks that currently covers only about 60 percent of gun sales.
The NRA is skeptical about a universal background check system keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and says it will put gun buyers through needless hassle.
"I've been in this fight for 20 years. We proposed it. I don't think it's going to happen," NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre told "Fox News Sunday," while arguing that the mental health lobby and federal laws have prevented the names of people with mental health problems from being put into a federal database.
LaPierre also said that "criminals won't comply."
The NRA has for four decades been the strongest force shaping America’s lenient gun laws. The NRA traditionally leans heavily toward the pro-gun Republican side. The US constitution's Second Amendment, which protects the rights of Americans to keep and bear arms, is defended tooth and nail by the NRA and rich gun manufacturers.
By working on the Republican base, the US gun lobby has been successful in blunting past drives to restrict the sale of high powered weapons. To change the laws, Obama needs to get Congress to act. The Republican opposition has typically blocked all reforms of the federal gun laws, including a return of the ban on assault rifles passed under president Bill Clinton but which expired in 2004 under president George W Bush.
"We should restore the ban on military style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines. And that deserves a vote in Congress, because weapons of war have no place on our streets," Obama said.