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WASHINGTON: Vice President Joe Biden wrapped up a series of White House meetings on Friday and prepared recommendations to curb US gun violence that will call for expanded background checks on gun buyers and set up a heated, likely uphill battle in Congress to revive a ban on military-style assault weapons.
Biden, who heads a task force due to give US President Barack Obama recommendations next week, met with representatives of the video game industry, whose products often enable players to carry out shootings in graphically violent games.
The vice president has said he will recommend “universal” background checks for all gun buyers - endorsed as a top priority on Friday by the prominent gun-control group the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence - and new limits on the capacity of ammunition magazines.
Obama formed the Biden task force following last month’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in which a gunman shot dead 20 children and six adults at an elementary school.
The White House reiterated on Friday that it also will try to revive the US ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004 after being in effect for a decade. The Obama administration rejected suggestions it was trying to lower expectations for getting a broad ban on assault weapons approved by Congress.
“The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it’s been politically difficult in the past is not an option,” White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said.
Biden’s recommendations are likely to put the White House on a collision course with the influential National Rifle Association gun rights lobbying group and spark the biggest gun-control fight in Congress in nearly a decade. The NRA criticised the White House effort after meeting with Biden on Thursday.
Any gun control proposals face a difficult fight in Congress, both in the Republican-led House of Representatives and in the Democratic-led Senate, where many Democrats represent conservative states with broad public support for gun rights.
Gun control advocates have renewed hope that a package of gun restrictions could clear Congress, while acknowledging the assault weapons ban likely will face the toughest path. “Among the things that are under consideration, banning assault weapons is probably the hardest lift for Congress. Bans are always the toughest fight,” said Jim Kessler, senior vice president of policy at the centrist think tank Third Way.
NRA President David Keene predicted that any proposal to ban assault weapons would not survive in Congress. He said his group has a “profound disagreement” with Obama on the right approach to preventing incidents such as the one in Newtown. The NRA has proposed putting armed security guards in U.S. schools.
“I do not think that there’s going to be a ban on so-called assault weapons in Congress,” Keene said. Reuters