By Kathleen Hennessey
2:45 PM EST, January 28, 2013
WASHINGTON – President Obama on Monday met with police chiefs from around the country -- including three from communities affected by mass shootings -- as part of his effort to build support for the gun control measures he wants to push through Congress.
At a morning meeting at the White House, Obama asked the law enforcement officials to put pressure on lawmakers to act on the measures he endorsed in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“If law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some basic consensus in terms of steps that we need to take, Congress is going to be paying attention to them and we’ll be able to make progress,” Obama said.
Representatives of the Major Cities Chiefs Assn. and Major County Sheriffs Assn. attended the meeting, along with Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the president’s gun violence task force, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The group included Police Chief Michael Kehoe from Newtown, Police Chief Daniel Oates from Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed in a movie theater shooting in July, and Police Chief John Edwards from Oak Creek, Wis., the scene of a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in August.
In remarks before the meeting, Obama noted that he had taken some administrative steps to tighten gun laws already on the books, but stressed that he believes Congress should pass “serious laws that restrict the access and availability of assault weapons and magazine clips,” require universal background checks on gun buyers and improve mental health services and school safety.
The assault weapons ban backed by the president faces steep opposition in Congress, while other elements of his plan are more likely to move forward. The president acknowledged the opposition on Monday and asked police for their help in applying pressure.
“We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country,” Obama said. “No group is more important for us to listen to than our law enforcement officials. They are where the rubber hits the road.”