These are direct questions and answers from President Obama's press conference today. This is from the official transcript. These are just questions relating to guns, which has been a hot topic in the Southern Tier
Q I wanted to ask about gun violence. Today marks the one-year -- or one-month anniversary of the shooting in Newtown, which seemed to generate some momentum for reinstating the assault weapons ban. But there’s been fresh opposition to that ban from the NRA. And even Harry Reid has said that he questions whether it could pass Congress. Given that, how hard will you push for an assault weapons ban? And if one cannot pass Congress, what other measures would need to be included in a broad package in order to curb gun violence successfully?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said, the Vice President and a number of members of my Cabinet went through a very thorough process over the last month, meeting with a lot of stakeholders in this including the NRA, listened to proposals from all quarters, and they’ve presented me now with a list of sensible, common-sense steps that can be taken to make sure that the kinds of violence we saw at Newtown doesn't happen again.
I’m going to be meeting with the Vice President today. I expect to have a fuller presentation later in the week to give people some specifics about what I think we need to do.
My starting point is not to worry about the politics; my starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works; what should we be doing to make sure that our children are safe and that we’re reducing the incidents of gun violence. And I think we can do that in a sensible way that comports with the Second Amendment.
And then members of Congress I think are going to have to have a debate and examine their own conscience -- because if, in fact -- and I believe this is true -- everybody across party lines was as deeply moved and saddened as I was by what happened in Newtown, then we’re going to have to vote based on what we think is best. We’re going to have to come up with answers that set politics aside. And that's what I expect Congress to do.
But what you can count is, is that the things that I’ve said in the past -- the belief that we have to have stronger background checks, that we can do a much better job in terms of keeping these magazine clips with high capacity out of the hands of folks who shouldn’t have them, an assault weapons ban that is meaningful -- that those are things I continue to believe make sense.
Page 2 of 3 - Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know. But what’s uppermost in my mind is making sure that I’m honest with the American people and with members of Congress about what I think will work, what I think is something that will make a difference. And to repeat what I’ve said earlier -- if there is a step we can take that will save even one child from what happened in Newtown, we should take that step.
Q Can a package be discussed to allow an assault weapons ban?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll present the details later in the week.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. On the issue of guns, given how difficult it will be -- some would say impossible -- to get any gun control measure passed through this Congress, what are you willing or able to do, using the powers of your presidency, to act without Congress? And I'd also like to know, what do you make of these long lines we're seeing at gun shows and gun stores all around the country? I mean, even in Connecticut, applications for guns are up since the shooting in Newtown.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, my understanding is the Vice President is going to provide a range of steps that we can take to reduce gun violence. Some of them will require legislation. Some of them I can accomplish through executive action. And so I'll be reviewing those today. And as I said, I'll speak in more detail to what we're going to go ahead and propose later in the week.
But I'm confident that there are some steps that we can take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as President. And where you get a step that has the opportunity to reduce the possibility of gun violence then I want to go ahead and take it.
Q Any idea of what kind of steps?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, for example, how we are gathering data, for example, on guns that fall into the hands of criminals, and how we track that more effectively -- there may be some steps that we can take administratively as opposed through legislation.
As far as people lining up and purchasing more guns, I think that we've seen for some time now that those who oppose any common-sense gun control or gun safety measures have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government is about to take all your guns away. And there's probably an economic element to that. It obviously is good for business.
Page 3 of 3 - But I think that those of us who look at this problem have repeatedly said that responsible gun owners, people who have a gun for protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship, they don't have anything to worry about. The issue here is not whether or not we believe in the Second Amendment. The issue is, are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school and gun down a bunch of children in a shockingly rapid fashion. And surely, we can do something about that.
But part of the challenge that we confront is, is that even the slightest hint of some sensible, responsible legislation in this area fans this notion that somehow, here it comes and everybody's guns are going to be taken away. It's unfortunate, but that's the case. And if you look at over the first four years of my administration, we’ve tried to tighten up and enforce some of the laws that were already on the books. But it would be pretty hard to argue that somehow gun owners have had their rights infringed.
Q So you think this is an irrational fear that's driving all these people to go and stock up --
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me?
Q Do you think this is an irrational fear --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said, I think it's a fear that's fanned by those who are worried about the possibility of any legislation getting out there.