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.