Obama asks gun-control advocates to listen

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama says gun-control advocates should be better listeners in the debate over firearms in America.

In an interview appearing in the Feb. 11 issue of The New Republic, Obama said he has "a profound respect" for the tradition of hunting that dates back for generations.

"And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake. Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas," he said.

Obama has called for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and is pushing other policies following the mass shooting last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. In response, gun-rights advocates have accused Obama and others of ignoring their Second Amendment rights.

The president says it's understandable that people are protective of their family traditions when it comes to hunting.

"So it's trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months. And that means that advocates of gun control have to do a little more listening than they do sometimes," he says.

Has Obama ever fired a gun?

"Yes," the president says, "in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time." His daughters don't shoot skeet at the presidential retreat in Maryland, he adds, "but oftentimes guests of mine go up there."

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Democrats from largely rural states with strong gun cultures view Obama's gun control proposals warily. Their concerns could stand in the way of strong legislation before a single Republican gets a chance to vote "no."

All eyes are on these dozen or so Democrats, some of whom face re-election in 2014, including Sens. Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday on Obama's proposals.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has his own history with the NRA. Even before Obama announced the gun proposals this month, Reid told a Nevada PBS station that an assault weapons ban would have a hard time getting through Congress. That comment irked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), author of such a ban. "Clearly it wasn't helpful," she said last week.

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