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Law enforcement groups urge tougher background checks on all gun buyers

By Richard Simon, Los Angeles Times –

WASHINGTON — Despite the tough political climate for federal gun-control legislation, a coalition of law enforcement groups on Thursday called for background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines in the wake of the Aurora, Colo., shooting.

“After looking at what happened in Aurora, Colo., who could be in favor of these high-capacity magazines?” asked Hubert Williams, president of the Police Foundation and chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence.

They issued their plea as the House of Representatives condemned the mass shooting and expressed condolences to the families and friends of the 12 people killed and wishes for the recovery of the 58 wounded. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, visiting Aurora Thursday, called for renewal of the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.

“We cannot be ….hiding behind the Second Amendment to justify weapons that the writers of the Constitution never imagined,” Jackson said in an interview. Asked about the resistance in Congress to gun-control legislation, he cited the difficulty in passing civil rights legislation. “You have to be persistent. It was tough, but we were right.”

President Barack Obama on Wednesday vowed to “leave no stone unturned” in seeking ways to curb the challenge of violence in American cities, although he did not call for any new gun-control legislation. He said he nonetheless believes that even gun owners would agree “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals” and that “we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons.”

His spokesman said Thursday the White House was focused on enforcing laws on the books and broader efforts to stop violence.

“I think you’re aware of the fact that there is a stalemate in Congress on a broad range of issues, and this would include this one,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “The assault weapons ban is an issue that the president has supported the reinstatement of since its expiration in 2004. But given the stalemate in Congress, our focus is on the steps that we can take to make sure criminals and others who should not have those guns — make sure that they cannot obtain them.”

Kristen Rand, legislative director of the Violence Policy Center, said the president is “moving — or crawling — in the right direction.”

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, added, “I think what’s appropriate at this point is to look at all the laws that we already have on the books and to make sure that they’re working as they were intended to work and are they being enforced the way they were intended to be enforced.”

But James Johnson, the Baltimore County, Md., police chief, joined other law enforcement officers at the National Press Club to declare that a high-capacity magazine, like one used in the Aurora shooting, “simply has no place in civilian hands.”

“It is ridiculous to argue that hunters or civilians who own weapons for self-defense need a 100-round drum magazine,” he said. “As we have seen, people don’t stand a chance against this kind of firepower.”

While the weapons and bullets used by suspected Aurora gunman James E. Holmes were legally purchased, Williams said that expanding background checks to cover all gun purchasers is needed. “We know that background checks do work and do prevent other dangerous people from acquiring firearms,” he said.

“Expanding background checks would affect only people prohibited from buying guns and would have no impact on law-abiding citizens’ ability to buy or sell guns to other law-abiding citizens,” he added.

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