WASHINGTON -- White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that President Barack Obama will "evaluate" new legislation that effectively bans online sales of gun ammunition, but he wouldn't say whether the president could support it.
During the daily White House briefing, Earnest told The Huffington Post that he didn't know if Obama had seen the bill filed Monday by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.). The measure would significantly curb the ability of people to buy unlimited amounts of ammunition via the Internet or other types of mail orders by requiring photo ID at the time of purchase. It would also require ammunition dealers to report bulk sales of bullets to law enforcement.
Their proposal comes just weeks after the shooting massacre in Aurora, Colo. that left 12 dead and dozens more injured. The suspected gunman had purchased more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet shortly before allegedly going on his killing spree. The incident has revived calls for some kind of action on gun control, particularly given that nothing changed after the January 2011 shootings that killed six and injured former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), but neither Congress nor Obama has signaled a willingness to advance new gun safety legislation.
"The president's views that have been relayed quite frequently over the last few days, he said that he believes in the Second Amendment of the Constitution and the right to bear arms," Earnest said. "But he also believes we should take robust steps within existing law to ensure that guns don't fall into the hands of criminals or others who shouldn't have them."
Asked if that means Obama wouldn't support a ban on online ammunition sales, Earnest reiterated that he didn't know if the president has seen the new bill. But he did signal, albeit vaguely, that the administration would take a look at it.
"As that and other pieces of legislation make their way through the legislative process, we will consider, we'll evaluate them," Earnest said.
Lautenberg says his bill could help to prevent the sale of ammunition "to a terrorist or the next would-be mass murderer."
"If someone wants to purchase deadly ammunition, they should have to come face-to-face with the seller,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “It's one thing to buy a pair of shoes online, but it should take more than a click of the mouse to amass thousands of rounds of ammunition."
Both Obama and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have taken heat for not stepping up on the issue of gun safety in response to the Colorado shootings. One of their most vocal critics has been New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"If Washington doesn't act, 48,000 Americans will be murdered with guns during the next president's term,” Bloomberg said in a statement. "We should be having a great debate among two accomplished leaders and the people they're asking to hire them. But we're not getting leadership; we're just getting condolences."
Despite the uphill battle in Washington, gun safety proponents have chalked up some small victories. Earlier this summer, Google changed its policies to prevent online sales of ammunition and firearms through its shopping channels. Gun safety advocates also point to a recent poll by Mayors Against Illegal Guns that found that 87 percent of National Rifle Association members agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand in hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals.
Clarification: This article was edited to specify how the bill would use a photo ID requirement to curtail so-called anonymous online ammunition sales.
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.