Acknowledging opposition in Congress, President Barack Obama said Monday he is reviewing actions he can take on his own to confront gun violence and said he will present a plan within days.
Stronger background checks, a meaningful ban on assault weapons and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines are all on the table, Obama said, although he conceded he was unsure how many of those steps could pass Congress. Fierce resistance from the powerful National Rifle Association has lawmakers from both parties wary of embracing tougher laws.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday that while he thought an assault weapons ban may be able to pass the Democratic-led Senate, he doubted that it could garner the necessary support among the Republican majority in the House.
Opposition from the well-funded and politically powerful NRA underscores the challenges that await the White House if it seeks congressional approval for limiting guns and ammunition. Obama can use his executive powers to act alone on some gun measures, but his options on the proposals opposed by the NRA are limited without Congress' cooperation.
"I'm confident there are some steps we can take that don't require legislation and that are within my authority as president," Obama said in a news conference in the East Room of the White House.
Obama's remarks came as he is reviewing a series of proposals from Vice President Joe Biden, whom he asked to lead a task force on ways to reduce violence after the December massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 27 people — mostly children.
Over the past month, Biden met with members of Congress, Cabinet members and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue to gauge support for measures such as reinstating the expired assault weapons ban. The NRA, one of the pro-gun groups that met with Biden, has made clear it will vehemently oppose such a ban and other measures that restrict gun access.
"Part of the challenge we confront 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," Obama said. The president added that while he tightened enforcement of existing gun laws during his first term, it's difficult for opponents to argue he has infringed on their right to own guns.
Obama and Biden were likely to discuss the vice president's recommendations during a private lunch at the White House Monday. Ahead of that meeting, Biden met with a dozen House Democrats who have formed their own task force for combating gun violence.
Biden also met last week with representatives of the video game and film industries to discuss cultural factors that may lead to violent behavior, although it's unclear what, if anything, the administration is prepared to do about depictions of violence in the media.