White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Obama is "actively supportive" of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's bill to reinstate the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Feinstein said on Meet the Press Sunday that on the first day the Senate is back in session come January, she will introduce a bill that "will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession" of such weapons. "It's clear that as a nation we haven't done enough to address the scourge of gun violence," Carney said at his daily briefing Tuesday afternoon. He reiterated that Obama "wants to move in the coming weeks."
The statement shows Obama more willing to act on gun violence after the Newtown massacre than he was after the Aurora shooting earlier this year. But it's worth noting that the definition of an assault weapon is pretty vague. We sort of interpret it to mean semi-automatic guns that look like the ones soldiers use. That's why the .223 Bushmaster (some pictured at right from Bud's Gun Shop) that was one of the weapons Adam Lanza used has been the focus of the gun control conversation after the Newtown shooting. But semi-automatic handguns are even more popular in mass shootings, as Mother Jones reports. What allows mass murderers to kill a lot of people in minutes is not fancy accessories but high-capacity magazines. Feinstein's bill would forbid "large ammunition magazines, strips and drums that hold more than 10 rounds." And it would ban "certain semiautomatic rifles, handguns and shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds."
The president has other gun-control measures at his disposal by way of executive order, or by way of taking up more legislation through the tougher road of House Republicans and, presumably, the still silent National Rifle Association. During a speech in Newtown on Sunday, Obama said he would "use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."