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President Barack Obama is starting to put together his gun violence agenda, with the first, tentative steps including items the president has at least in name supported for years.
And the White House is reaching out to Congress on how to proceed.
On Tuesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney noted several legislative items that the president supports, including the plan of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to renew an assault weapons ban, legislation to close the gun show loophole on background checks and, potentially, a ban on large-capacity magazines.
Carney also noted that the president spoke Tuesday with Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., a conservative gun rights advocate who said Monday after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre that he could support new restrictions on military-style rifles and large magazines as part of a broader effort to deal with gun violence. Manchin and Obama have rarely talked in the past.
Carney called the comments of Manchin and others “heartening.”
Manchin issued a statement after the call with the president.
“We agree that as Americans and parents, all of our children belong to all of us — and we must work together to keep our precious children safe,” he said.
“I believe that we must have a dialogue and bring parties from all sides to the table. I know my friends at the [National Rifle Association] and those who support our Second Amendment rights will participate because I know that their hearts are aching for the families in Newtown, just like all Americans,” he said.
“To have a productive dialogue, we also need to address a number of critical issues, including our mental health system, safety in our schools and a media and entertainment culture that glorifies unspeakable violence.”
Back at the White House, Carney also sought to avoid getting pinned down.
“It is clear that we cannot once again retreat to our separate corners and to our stale talking points because that inevitably leads to an impasse,” Carney said.
The president’s approach will go well beyond gun laws, Carney said. It will also deal with mental health, education and potentially cultural issues.
Carney noted that the president met with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and several members of the Cabinet on Monday, including Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss a way forward.
“Their participation underscores the comprehensive way in which the president views this problem,” Carney said.