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Obama says he'll 'vigorously' pursue 'meaningful' assault weapons ban

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., talks about the gun control and debt ceiling debates.

President Barack Obama on Monday acknowledged that full implementation of his expected gun control proposals may be stonewalled in Congress but pledged to "vigorously pursue" recommendations from an administration task force, including a "meaningful" assault weapons ban. 

"What you can count on is that the things that I've said in the past - the belief that we have to have stronger background checks, that we can do a much better job in terms of keeping these magazine clips with high capacity out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them, an assault weapons ban that's meaningful - those are things I continue to believe make sense," Obama said during the final press conference of his first term. 

"Will all of them get through this Congress? I don't know," he added. "But what's uppermost in my mind is making sure that I'm honest with the American people and with members of Congress about what I think will work."  

Obama said that some measures, like the lifting of restrictions on how the federal government can collect data about guns, can be accomplished by executive order, while others will require legislation. 

"Members of Congress are going to, I think, have a debate and examine their own conscience because if in fact - and I believe this is true - everybody across party lines was as moved and saddened as I was by what happened in Newtown, then we're going to have to vote based on what we think is best." 

The president is expected to review recommendations from the task force led by Vice President Joe Biden today in a private meeting. Obama charged Biden with leading the reform effort after a mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn., left 20 children dead.

"My starting point is not to worry about the politics," Obama said of the expected resistance from gun groups and many in Congress who are skeptical of an assault weapons ban. "My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works. What should we be doing to make sure that our children are safe and that we're reducing the incidence of gun violence?  And I think we can do that in a sensible way that comports with the Second Amendment." 

Addressing a question about recent spikes in gun sales, Obama blamed pro-gun groups for "ginning up fear" among firearm owners.

"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," he said. "The issue here is not whether or not we believe in the Second Amendment. The issue is are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school and gun down a bunch of children in a shockingly rapid fashion."