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Obama urges police chiefs to help pass tougher gun laws

President Obama met yesterday with law enforcement leaders, including officials from four communities where mass shootings took place recently, and urged them to help him build support in Congress to pass his proposals to toughen gun laws.

Obama asserted that law enforcement leaders are the most important group in the fraught and emotional gun debate – “They are where the rubber hits the road,” he said – and that a consensus among police chiefs and sheriffs could influence wavering lawmakers.

“Hopefully, if law enforcement officials who are dealing with this stuff every single day can come to some 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.

Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano joined Obama and 13 police chiefs and sheriffs at the White House meeting.

Obama urged passage of universal background checks for all gun buyers, which administration officials have said is his top priority and is considered the most likely of his legislative proposals to win bipartisan support.

The president also called yesterday on Congress to pass bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazine clips, making clear those measures remain a priority after Biden did not highlight them Friday in his public remarks during a gun violence roundtable session in Richmond, Va.

“We recognize that this is an issue that elicits a lot of passion all across the country, and Joe and my Cabinet members who have been involved in this have been on a listening session over the last several months,” Obama said.

Later, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama and Biden would continue meeting with different interest groups as they “press for progress.”

“This reflects the president’s commitment to engage with all stakeholders on this important issue,” Carney said.

In the law enforcement meeting, Obama noted that his proposals to curb the nation’s gun violence, which also included 23 executive actions announced this month, are designed to prevent not only mass shootings but also everyday violence.

“Many of them also recognize that it’s not only the high-profile mass shootings that are of concern here,” Obama said of law enforcement leaders. “It’s also what happens on a day-in, day-out basis in places like Chicago or Philadelphia, where young people are victims of gun violence every single day.”

Obama said they would discuss ways to hire more police officers, get them the training they need and make sure sheriff’s offices in rural counties have access to resources that big cities have.

Attendees included law enforcement leaders from Newtown, Conn., where 20 young children and six adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14; Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and dozens injured at a movie theater shooting in July; Oak Creek, Wis., where six were shot and killed at a Sikh temple in August; and Tucson, Ariz., where in 2011 six died and 13 were injured, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Also attending were police chiefs and sheriffs from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Chicago and Philadelphia, as well as Montgomery County, Md., Calhoun County, Ala., Story County, Iowa, and Hennepin County, Minn.

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