President Obama is wading again into America's culture wars, urging a pragmatic approach to gun control, calling for a reduction in violence on the football field, and preparing to detail his objectives for immigration reform.
On firearms, Obama said he isn't really taking an extreme position even though his critics, such as the National Rifle Association, argue that he is going too far.
In an interview with The New Republic, Obama said even though he supports stronger gun control measures, "I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake. Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas.
"And if you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were 10 and you went out and spent the day with him and your uncles, and that became part of your family's traditions, you can see why you'd be pretty protective of that. So it's trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months. And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."
Obama is calling for a ban on military-style assault weapons and magazines that carry a large amount of ammunition. His proposals came after the massacre last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Obama also said he does "skeet shooting all the time" at the presidential retreat at Camp David—"not the girls [his daughters], but oftentimes guests of mine go up there" and shoot skeet.
Obama also expressed concern about the level of violence and injuries in the National Football League. "I'm a big football fan but I have to tell you, if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," the president told The New Republic.
"And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much."
Obama added: "I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union; they're grown men; they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well compensated for the violence they do to their bodies.
You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about."
Beyond the issue of violence, Obama is expected to address still another divisive social issue Tuesday when he explains his goals for immigration reform in a speech in Las Vegas.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Facebook and Twitter.