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Obama's push on gun violence begins to take shape


President Barack Obama would actively support an impending proposal next year to reinstate a ban on assault weapons as part of the wide-ranging effort the president promised to initiate in response to mass shooting incidents this year.

The contours of Obama’s plan to address mounting gun violence began to take shape in the nation’s capital as the White House started to outline some of the specific measures the administration would favor as part of its new initiative.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Obama supports the thrust of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein's forthcoming legislation to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. Carney said that the president was additionally willing to consider limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines and closing a loophole allowing individuals to purchase firearms at gun shows without a background check.

Evan Vucci / AP

President Barack Obama walks off after delivering a speech at an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn.

Carney said Obama "is actively supportive of, for example, Sen. Feinstein’s stated intent to revive a piece of legislation that would reinstate the assault weapons ban," along with some of those other gun proposals.

The press secretary's comments offered the first glance into what policy specifics might make up the president's vow to initiate an effort to address gun violence, which he made during a vigil for victims of last week's elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

A steady trickle of pro-gun Democrats have begun to express their willingness to consider reinstating the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004 without any serious efforts for renewal. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin -- whom Obama called Tuesday -- appeared in a 2010 campaign ad shooting a copy of the environmental cap-and-trade bill; now, Manchin said every option should be "on the table."

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va, says that while he's a proud gun-owner and NRA member, there needs to be a "sensible" and "reasonable" dialogue about gun legislation.

The shooting in Newtown, according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., served as a "tipping point" in a long-dormant debate over gun control in the nation's capital. While Obama has voiced support for reinstating the assault weapons ban in the past, his administration might throw its weight behind such an effort.

But Carney emphasized that new gun rules would only compose a portion of a more comprehensive effort to adress mass casualty events. The press secretary emphasized, for instance, that improved mental health services were an important element in any effort.

That component has been one which Republicans, who are generally loath to support efforts to rein in gun rights, have emphasized in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting.

The Daily Rundown's Chuck Todd discusses the difficulties of implementing gun control laws with Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia.

"I think we need to look at school safety. Mental health, obviously, seems to be a big part of what happened here," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, R, said Tuesday on MSNBC. "And once we have the facts, make prudent, reasonable decisions."

He said limits on firearms might make sense, but only if evidence would demonstrate those tighter rules would be effective. On that count, McDonnell said all the facts had yet to be gathered.

Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, R, made a similar point in a separate interview on MSNBC.

"Yes, put more gun control on the table, but don't forget the mental health element," he said.

But no senior Republican had yet emerged to endorse -- or really, even address -- the prospects for any legislation to restrict access to assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. Because the House will remain in Republican control for at least the next two years, bringing any such proposal to a vote without the blessing of the GOP leadership would be difficult, if not impossible.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., shares her reaction to the mass shooting in Newtown and talks about the future of gun control legislation in Washington, D.C.

Pelosi, however, voiced a more bullish outlook on the current willingness of Congress to take up gun rules.

"Right away -- today, this week -- we could pass the ban on assault magazines," she told NBC's Andrea Mitchell. "In the larger sense, let's go down the path of banning the assault weapon. I think that has a better chance to do that now than ever."