WHITE HOUSE— President Barack Obama traveled to the northern U.S. city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Monday to press his case for strengthened gun control laws. Obama says Americans are demanding action.
Obama chose Minneapolis for his first trip outside of Washington to campaign for proposals that include a new ban on military-style assault weapons, and universal background checks for all gun purchases.
Leaders in the city have taken steps to reduce gun violence.
At the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, Mr. Obama sat down with community leaders to hear their ideas and discuss what they have accomplished.
One of them was Police Chief Janee Harteau who recalled the toll from gang violence, including the shooting death of a 5-year-old child.
"On a regular basis we see gun violence between rival gangs with several shootings happening just blocks from here. And in the last 13 months we have seen horrific incidents right in this neighborhood that have shocked our community to the core," Harteau said.
President Obama noted that measures taken in Minneapolis had reduced the number of young people wounded by guns by 40 percent.
"We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting. No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there is even one thing we can do, if there is just one life we can save, we have got an obligation to try," Obama said.
Obama also is pushing for restrictions on high-capacity ammunition clips, increased funding for mental health and school security, and lifting restrictions preventing federal government studies of causes of gun violence.
Despite national horror from the recent shooting of young schoolchildren and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, supporters of strengthening gun laws face fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest gun owner lobbying group.
On Capitol Hill, new assault weapons ban and ammunition magazine legislation face an uncertain fate.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has called for a careful and cautious approach. On ABC's This Week program, he said proposals need to be examined and debated.
"There are things we can do and I would be happy to take a look at it," Reid said.
President Obama said a majority of Americans, including gun owners, support criminal background checks for gun purchasers.
He said Americans need to engage with their lawmakers and with gun owners to support common sense reforms.
"Tell them there is no legislation to eliminate all guns. There is no legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment (of the U.S. Constitution). Tell them specifically what we're talking about, things that the majority of Americans - when asked - support. And tell them now is the time for action, that we're not going to wait for the next Newtown, or the next Aurora. We're not going to wait until we lose more innocent Americans on street corners all across country," Obama said.
Saying "changing the status quo is never easy," Mr. Obama said the only way to reduce gun violence is if the American people decide it is important and say "this time it has got to be different."