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Gun-Control Advocates Should Listen More, Obama Says

Jan 27, 2013

President Obama said that those support gun control should "do a little more listening" to differing viewpoints in the debate over firearms in the U.S.

"I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations," Obama told The New Republic in an interview published Sunday. "And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake."

His comments come in the wake of the shootings last month in Newtown, Conn. The killing of 20 children in the town has spurred gun-control advocates to seek restriction on the ownership of certain firearms such as military-style assault rifles.

As NPR's Tamara Keith reported on Weekend Edition Saturday, the Obama administration is pushing gun legislation outside of the Beltway. Here's more from Tamara's story:

"On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden held a round-table discussion in Richmond, Va., speaking with people who worked on gun safety after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

Biden became the administration's point person on guns following the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn. He and the president released recommendations last week that include renewing the assault weapons ban and limiting the size of ammunition magazines and universal background checks."

But the National Rifle Association opposes most gun-control efforts, and as Tamara noted in her story, Congress is unlikely to be an ally, either.

In the New Republic interview, Obama acknowledged the uphill battle:

"The House Republican majority is made up mostly of members who are in sharply gerrymandered districts that are very safely Republican and may not feel compelled to pay attention to broad-based public opinion, because what they're really concerned about is the opinions of their specific Republican constituencies.

"There are going to be a whole bunch of initiatives where I can get more than fifty percent support of the country, but I can't get enough votes out of the House of Representatives to actually get something passed."

But Obama acknowledged that guns played an important role in American culture:

"Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas. And if you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were ten, and you went out and spent the day with him and your uncles, and that became part of your family's traditions, you can see why you'd be pretty protective of that.

"So it's trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months. And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes."

When asked if he's ever fired a gun, the president replied: "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time."

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