Obama presses Congress during Minnesota speech to pass gun measures

President Barack Obama, speaking in Minneapolis on Monday, placed public pressure on Congress to pass gun control measures. The speech was part of an ongoing effort to respond to December's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

"Real and lasting change requires Congress to do its part and do it soon," Obama said from a podium at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, a riser full of law enforcement officers behind him.

A politically competitive state, Minnesota is home to many gun-rights advocates. But gun control discussions have increased there since a Sept. 27 mass shooting at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, which resulted in six dead. For instance, there have been successful local efforts to stem gun violence involving young people.

Obama said Monday that local youth initiatives in Minneapolis have reduced by 40 percent the number of young people injured by guns.

The president also noted that his discussion earlier in the day with local law enforcement officers, victims and their families, all with different backgrounds, showed a clear consensus. "They all believe it's time to take some very basic commonsense steps to prevent gun violence," Obama said.

Obama also called on people to urge their representatives in Congress to act on gun measures, and identified criminal background checks as one of the most widely supported gun measures. There's "no reason why we can’t get that done," Obama said, calling the initiative a "smart idea."

The president additionally used Monday's speech to forcefully call for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, legislation for which has been introduced in the Senate.

"Weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers," Obama said.

The president suggested that if high-capacity magazines had been banned, less damage might have been done in the January 2011 Tucson shooting where former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically injured and six others died.

A ban on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons are just two of the proposals the president unveiled on Jan. 16 as part of a sweeping plan designed to combat gun violence. Members of Congress have since introduced some of those proposals as legislation, such as a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips.

In the meantime, the White House has continued a general public relations campaign and listening sessions on the issue.

The president and Vice President Joe Biden, who Obama chose to head up his gun task force, have been publicly advocating universal background checks, mental health services and screenings, and other measures. As part of a plan to carefully navigate this politically sensitive issue, they're waiting to see how legislation plays out in Congress.

Gun control measures face stiff opposition from the gun lobby, headed up by the National Rifle Association, as well as from select gun rights advocates in Congress.

The White House has continually conceded that its efforts face an uphill battle.

The president seemed to speak directly to critics Monday, saying: "There's no legislation to eliminate all guns, no legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment."

As White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated during Monday's press briefing aboard Air Force One on the way Minnesota, "The president recognizes these things are hard … if they weren’t hard they would have been done in the past."

But the president suggested that the American public can change that tide. The only way legislation will pass is "if the American people decide it’s important," Obama said in his speech.