WASHINGTON – Even as the issue of guns shifts to the forefront of the presidential campaign, the White House and the Senate's top Democrat made it clear Thursday that new gun legislation will not be on the political agenda this year. Instead, President Barack Obama intends to focus on other ways to combat gun violence — a position not unlike that of his rival, Mitt Romney.
Days after the mass shootings in Colorado, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama still supports a ban on the sale of assault weapons, a restriction that expired in 2004. But he added: "There are things we can do short of legislation and short of gun laws that can reduce violence in our society."
Carney comment the day after Obama, in a speech to an African-American group Wednesday in New Orleans, embraced some degree of additional restrictions on guns. He acknowledged that not enough had been done to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and pledged to work with lawmakers from both parties to move forward on the matter.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday that the Senate would not consider the gun issue this year, even though he agreed with Obama's remarks in New Orleans.
"With the schedule we have, we're not going to even have a debate on gun control," Reid told reporters.
The White House and Reid's stance illustrate a reality in Washington, where advocating for restrictions on gun ownership is viewed as a political liability.
Carney said Obama will work to enhance existing gun laws, acknowledging opposition in Congress to new limits.
"While there is that stalemate in Congress there are other things we can do," he said.
Obama told the National Urban League in New Orleans that he was willing to work with both parties in Congress to find a national consensus that addresses violence. That speech came six days after the shooting in an Aurora, Col., movie theater that left 12 people dead.