President Barack Obama, buoyed by polls showing strong public support for some new gun measures, continued to publicly press federal lawmakers to act on gun reform legislation Wednesday, despite facing tepid support for new gun laws on Capitol Hill.
Obama traveled to Colorado, which recently enacted its own gun reform package, to deliver his latest pitch in favor of moving toward greater background checks for gun purchasers as well as limits on access to high capacity ammunition magazines and military-style rifles. Colorado has seen more than one mass shooting over the years, including the 1999 Columbine school shooting and the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora.
"From the beginning of this effort, we've wanted law enforcement front and center in shaping the discussion and the reforms that emerge from it," Obama said, after meeting with law enforcement officials at the Denver Police Academy. "After all, you're often the first to see the terrible consequences of gun violence – lives lost; families broken; communities irrevocably changed. You know what works and what doesn't, and we wanted that experience and that advice."
Several states – including Connecticut, New York and Colorado – have passed measures aimed at curbing gun violence since the Newtown shooting, but anti-gun reform lobbying efforts have fueled opposition at the federal level despite public support for new constraints.
About 60 percent of people said gun sales laws should be stricter, according to a new Morning Joe/Marist poll released Wednesday, including 83 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of gun owners and 37 percent of Republicans.
Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said they support background checks for gun show and private gun sales and about 60 percent support a so-called assault weapons ban, according to the poll.
Obama praised Colorado lawmakers for striking a balance between respecting gun owners' rights and gun restrictions.
"I'm here because I believe there's no conflict between reconciling these realities; there doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights," he said. "I've gotten stacks of letters from proud gun owners, whether they're for sport, or protection or collection, who tell me how deeply they cherish their rights and don't want them infringed upon, but they still want us to do something to stop the epidemic of gun violence."
Lawmakers in the House, which is controlled by Republicans, have not yet held hearings on potential gun reform legislation. In the Democratically-controlled Senate, while it's been clear for some time that an assault weapons ban was not likely to be approved, even more conservative proposals that have bipartisan support are in danger of failing. A recently committee-approved, bipartisan bill that would crack down on straw gun purchases is being met with an aggressive lobbying campaign by the National Rifle Association in hopes of reducing its impact, reports The Hill.
"There's no reason we can't do this, unless politics gets in the way," Obama said, citing the public support.
The president, banking on this polling edge, has been stumping around the country in favor of stronger gun laws in hopes of pushing lawmakers into motion by appealing directly to their constituents.
"There are already some senators back in Washington floating the idea that they might use obscure, procedural stunts to prevent or delay any of these votes on reform," he said. "They are saying your opinion doesn't matter."
Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida have all said they would essentially filibuster a vote on any additional gun control restrictions, citing their support for the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently announced he would not include a so-called assault weapons ban in a comprehensive gun reform bill expected to hit the floor soon because of resistance by both conservative Democratic and Republican lawmakers.
Since 1995, when congressional Democrats experienced sweeping electoral losses following the passage of a 10-year assault weapons ban that has since lapsed, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been resistant to taking votes on restricting gun rights.