Obama in Denver in bid to regain gun-control momentum

During a speech in Denver to amp support for gun-control legislation, President Obama renewed pressure on Congress to enact stricter background checks. (The Washington Post)

President Obama stopped here Wednesday afternoon to try to regain public support for his stalled gun-control agenda, using a tour of a police academy to put new pressure on Congress amid waning political urgency for more restrictive laws.

Obama’s choice to appear in a state that has experienced two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history — the 1999 killings at Columbine High School and last summer’s attack at a movie theater in Aurora — added symbolic weight to the event.

Noting that the state’s legislators have passed stronger gun legislation regarding background checks, Obama made the case that such regulations do not infringe on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

“Opponents of common-sense gun laws have ginned up fears among responsible gun owners that have nothing to do with what’s being proposed, not a thing to do with facts,” he said. “It feeds into suspicions of government, that you need a gun to protect yourself from government: ‘We can’t do background checks because the government will come take my guns away.’ The government is us. These officials were elected by you.”

The president pleaded with the public that “if you hear that kind of talk, say, ‘Hold on a second.’ If any folks out there are gun owners and you’re hearing someone talking about the government taking your guns away, get the facts.”

How the NRA exerts influence over Congress

But Obama’s proposals, which include banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, have faced stiff resistance from the National Rifle Association, whose public relations campaign and lobbying are jeopardizing his agenda.

The president’s motorcade passed a group of protesters holding signs reading, “Stop Taking Our Rights” and “Support Our Second Amendment.” One person held a blue Obama 2012 campaign sign with the word “TREASON” written across it.

More than 100 days after 20 children and six adults were killed at a school in Newtown, Conn., public opinion polls show a drop-off in support for the initiatives, and some gun-control advocates have said they fear that time is running out for the administration.

Obama said that he has received stacks of letters from gun owners who value their Second Amendment rights and that he has read them. He said both sides can learn from each other, and he shared an anecdote about first lady Michelle Obama campaigning in rural Iowa and telling him that she can understand why people there would want a gun for protection in remote places.

Before speaking at the police academy, Obama met with a group of Colorado state and local leaders, including Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D), to discuss new gun-control measures the state has adopted.

The administration has focused in recent days on a proposal to require background checks on all private gun sales, an idea that more than 90 percent of Americans support in opinion polls.

But even that proposal appears to have a difficult route to passage as Republicans, and some moderate Democrats, have raised fears that such a law would create intrusive national registries. Several Republicans have threatened to filibuster the bill, which will require a 60-vote majority to pass.

“It is imperative that the elected officials of the American people allow all of these measures to come to a vote,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said aboard Air Force One, “because if you disagree with 90 percent of the American people, you ought to vote no.”

After speaking in Denver, Obama was scheduled to travel to San Francisco for two days of fundraising for the Democratic Party. He will continue his push on gun control Monday, when he is scheduled to appear in Connecticut.

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