WASHINGTON (AP) — The fate of his gun proposals on Capitol Hill uncertain, President Barack Obama is seeking to rally support from the public and law enforcement community for his calls to ban assault weapons and install universal background checks for gun buyers.
Obama will pitch his proposals to stem gun violence Monday in Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning state where officials have been studying ways to reduce gun-related attacks and accidents for several years. His visit to the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center will mark the first time Obama has campaigned on his controversial proposals outside of Washington.
Ahead of the trip, the White House released a photo of the president skeet shooting at Camp David, the presidential retreat. Obama cited skeet shooting when asked in a recent interview whether he had ever shot a gun.
The president unveiled his sweeping package of proposals for curbing gun violence last month in response to the horrific mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. He vowed to use the full weight of his office to fight for the proposals, many of which face tough opposition from congressional lawmakers and the powerful National Rifle Association.
The reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, is expected to be the steepest climb for Obama. Universal background checks for gun purchasers may have an easier time passing Congress, though the NRA also opposes that measure.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, said Obama remained committed to the assault weapons ban and that it was too early to write off prospects for any parts of the package.
"We all recognize that all the components of this are difficult and face challenges, some perhaps even more than others," Carney said. "But the president's support is firm and clear."
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has said he hopes his panel can write gun legislation this month, though it's unclear what it will contain.
The White House picked Minneapolis as the backdrop for Obama's remarks in part because of recent steps the city has taken to tackle gun violence, including a push for stricter background checks.
After a spike in violent crimes, the city launched a program in 2008 aimed at providing more resources for at-risk youth and helping rehabilitate young people who have already perpetrated crimes. In January, Minneapolis also hosted a regional summit on gun violence for elected officials from around the Midwest.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau and Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek are also among the officials Obama has consulted as he pursues his anti-gun violence measures.
Stanek has also been leading a group of Minnesota sheriffs pushing for stronger background checks for people trying to buy guns.
Obama is expected to make more trips around the country to build support for his anti-gun violence measures. The outside group Organizing For Action, an offshoot of Obama's presidential campaign, is also promoting the proposals.
White House officials say quick action on the president's gun measures gives them the best prospects for passing legislation in Congress. They fear that as time passes lawmakers will have less incentive to back the measures as the shock of the Newtown massacre fades.
In addition to the gun control measures, Obama's anti-violence proposals also included increasing mental health resources, boosting funding for school security, and lifting restrictions that prevent the government from studying the causes of gun violence.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC