U.S. President Barack Obama is getting some reinforcement on his controversial gun control proposals from his defense secretary.
Leon Panetta told U.S. troops in Italy it is clear something needs to be done to protect school children so "that the nuts that are out there will not use these kinds of weapons to wipe them out.”
Panetta also told the troops the president's proposals as common sense.
“There are areas like armor-piercing bullets," he said. "I mean, who the hell needs armor-piercing bullets except you guys in battle?”
Panetta's defense of the president's proposals came in response to a question from one of the soldiers with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.
President Obama's plan calls for a ban on assault weapons and for universal background checks for anyone wanting to purchase a gun.
Panetta told the troops he is a believer in the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to own guns, and that he does not think Obama's proposals are an attack on that right.
“I am a hunter. I go out. I've gone duck hunting since I was 10 years old, and I love to hunt," Panetta said. "I love to share that joy with my kids, but for the life of me I don't know why people have to have assault weapons.”
The National Rifle Association, the largest U.S. gun rights lobbying group, has been critical of gun control efforts, saying "gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime."
Earlier this week, the NRA launched an ad campaign to preemptively attack the president's plan. The ad calls Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing armed security guards to protect his school-aged daughters, while rejecting a proposal for armed guards in every school.
The White House has called the NRA ad "repugnant and cowardly."
Obama Wednesday called for lawmakers to quickly pass several proposals, saying keeping children safe is "our first task as a society."
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement Wednesday saying "Nothing the President is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook [in Newtown]." Rubio also pledged to "oppose the President’s attempts to undermine Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.”