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Obama Uses State Action on Gun Control Laws to Pressure Congress

President Barack Obama called Colorado a model for the nation on gun control, saying that recently-enacted legislation protects the rights of law-abiding citizens while keeping firearms from “dangerous people.”

With congressional action stymied by opposition from the National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest pro-gun lobby, Obama is highlighting efforts to restrict firearms in states to put pressure on lawmakers.

“There doesn’t have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights,” Obama said at an event at the Denver Police Academy. “Colorado has shown that practical progress is possible.”

The president is trying to overcome the NRA’s lobbying and waning public enthusiasm for the gun control measures he outlined in the weeks after the mass shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school in December that left 20 children and six adults dead. His administration is pressing for action at both the state and federal level.

Since Newtown, Obama said, “more than 2,000 of our fellow citizens, struck down, often just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

More than six hundred bills aimed at restricting access to firearms were introduced in state legislatures this year, a more than threefold increase from 2012, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a San Francisco-based group that advocates in favor of stricter laws.

State Actions

So far, few gun restrictions have become law. New York was the first state to act, with a ban on high-capacity magazines and assault-weapons restrictions, and Colorado last month enacted magazine limits and required expanded background checks for gun buyers. Yesterday, Connecticut’s legislature considered what proponents said were the most sweeping in the nation and Maryland moved toward passage of a slate of new weapons restrictions.

All four of those states are led by Democrats. The president is scheduled to make a trip to Hartford, Connecticut, April 8.

“From the beginning of this effort, we’ve wanted law enforcement front and center in shaping the discussion and the reforms that emerge from it,” Obama said, flanked by policemen and women.’’

Laura Cutilletta, an attorney who follows state gun measures for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said such efforts face considerable challenge in much of the country, with Republicans in charge of a majority of legislatures and governors offices.

Political Landscape

“The political reality hasn’t really changed since Newtown,” Cutilletta said. “The will is there, and the public certainly seems to have mobilized around this issue, but the politics that surround this issue -- the gun lobby and the forces that are exerting pressure on both sides -- in that respect, that is still as it was before.”

As the memories of the Newtown massacre fade, polls show public support for stricter limits on weapons has slipped. A CBS News poll conducted March 20-24 found support for tougher gun regulation was at 47 percent, down from 57 percent in the days after the shootings. The poll, which is in line with other recent surveys, had a margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points. Some individual elements of Obama’s proposals, particularly expanded background checks, still have the support of a majority of Americans.

“It’s now been just over 100 days since the murder of 20 innocent children and six brave educators in Newtown, Connecticut shocked this country into doing something to protect our kids,” Obama said. “But consider this: over those 100 days or so, more than 100 times as many Americans have fallen victim to gun violence.”

Senate Proposal

The U.S. Senate will consider this month a package of gun legislation that includes expanded background checks, a measure to curb gun trafficking and one to increase federal grants for school safety upgrades.

It’s a scaled-back version of the sweeping package of gun legislation Obama proposed, which included a renewal of the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid converted those items to an amendment that stands no chance of survival.

Obama’s Denver event was the only official business on a two-day trip out of Washington. In San Francisco, he will headline four fundraisers to press donors to help him win back Democratic control of the House of Representatives in 2014 and shore up the national party’s finances.

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