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Obama, flanked by law enforcement officials, renews gun violence push


Meeting with law enforcement officials hailing from communities affected by high-profile shootings, President Barack Obama on Monday stressed the importance of reaching consensus with Congress to advance his gun violence proposals.

"As we've indicated before, the only way that we're going to be able to do everything that needs to be done is with the cooperation of Congress," Obama said, ticking off some of the heftiest provisions in his gun-violence plan.

Jason Reed / Reuters

President Barack Obama meets with police chiefs from three communities scarred by mass shootings last year to talk about the administration's push to reduce gun violence, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 28, 2013.

Among the law enforcement officials at the meeting, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, were the police chiefs from Aurora, Colo.; Oak Creek, Wis. and Newtown, Conn., the sites of the most recent high-profile mass shootings.

Obama said that mobilizing police officers and sheriffs behind his agenda will help spur Congress to consider and pass the legislation he is pushing for.

“No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They're where rubber hits the road,” he said. “And hopefully if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them and we'll be able to make progress.”

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And although few key lawmakers have voiced support for the measure in Obama's package to ban assault weapons, the president re-iterated his support for that provision.

“That means passing serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips that aren't necessary for hunters and sportsmen and those who -- responsible gun owners who are out there," he said. "It means that we are serious about universal background checks. It means that we take seriously issues of mental health and school safety.”

Update, Tues. Jan. 29: Police Chief J. Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, Maryland, one of the 13 officials who met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Monday, said that both leaders “did a lot more listening than they did talking” and that the conversation gravitated to issues of mental health, including a national database of individuals whose history of mental health issues would prevent them from being able to purchase a firearm.

“Everybody agrees that we want to keep firearms out of the hands of folks that have mental health issues, but how do you identify who those folks are?” said Menger.

Hennepin County, Minnesota Sheriff Richard Stanek said that while he would enforce any laws Congress passed as a result of the president’s gun safety push, an all-out ban on assault weapons would simply motivate gun manufacturers to come up with new models to which the ban did not apply. 

“If you’re going to do this, that’s fine, we’ll enforce the laws, but understand where some of the loopholes are that people are slipping through,” Stanek said.

Stanek said the officials also met Monday with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the author of an assault-weapons ban bill, and told her of their concerns. 

“Every day they modify weapons so where do you start? Where do you end?” Stanek asked.