Obama calls for agreement on gun reform laws

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In his first public comments about gun control since Arizona's mass shootings in January, President Obama on Sunday called for "agreement" on the divisive issue of gun reform laws, and urged the implementation of "sound and effective steps" that would minimize gun violence in the United States.

In an op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star, the president emphasized his support for the right of Americans to bear arms - but emphasized the need to keep the "irresponsible, law-breaking few from getting their hands on a gun in the first place."

"I'm willing to bet they don't think that using a gun and using common sense are incompatible ideas - that we should check someone's criminal record before he can check out at a gun seller; that an unbalanced man shouldn't be able to buy a gun so easily; that there's room for us to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment," wrote Mr. Obama, of "responsible, law-abiding gun owners."

Using as an example January's shootings in Arizona, in which six people were killed and 13 - including Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords - were wounded, Mr. Obama pushed for a series of reforms that would, he argued, prevent "dangerous criminals and fugitives" from legally obtaining a gun.

With an emphasis on strengthening already existing regulations - particularly in regard to the streamlining and implementation of background checks - Mr. Obama outlined a set of guidelines he posited would allow America "to have reasonable laws that uphold liberty, ensure citizen safety and are fully compatible with a robust Second Amendment."

"We should begin by enforcing laws that are already on the books," he wrote. "The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is the filter that's supposed to stop the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. Bipartisan legislation four years ago was supposed to strengthen this system, but it hasn't been properly implemented. It relies on data supplied by states - but that data is often incomplete and inadequate. We must do better."

Mr. Obama suggested that states should be provided with incentives to provide comprehensive background data. He also argued that the system in general must be "faster and nimbler."

"We should provide an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks to sellers who want to do the right thing, and make sure that criminals can't escape it," he said.

Acknowledging the contentious nature of the topic, Mr. Obama pressed Americans to "get beyond wedge issues and stale political debates to find a sensible, intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place."

"I know some aren't interested in participating," he wrote. "Some will say that anything short of the most sweeping anti-gun legislation is a capitulation to the gun lobby. Others will predictably cast any discussion as the opening salvo in a wild-eyed scheme to take away everybody's guns... But I have more faith in the American people than that."

"We owe the victims of the tragedy in Tucson and the countless unheralded tragedies each year nothing less than our best efforts - to seek consensus, to prevent future bloodshed, to forge a nation worthy of our children's futures," he wrote.

The bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition issued a release in support of  Mr. Obama's gun stance: 

Today, President Obama signaled he has heard the message of more than 550 mayors - Republicans, Democrats, and independents - who support common-sense reform of our broken gun background check system. Our coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns has proposed a straightforward plan to fix the problem the President discussed: people who are legally prohibited from owning guns can easily buy them. First, we must ensure that all records of prohibited purchasers like criminals, drug abusers, domestic violence offenders and the seriously mentally ill are in the federal background check system. Second, we should make sure every gun seller performs a simple background check.