DENVER - Ratcheting up pressure for Congress to limit access to guns, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that recent steps by Colorado to tighten its gun laws show "there doesn't have to be a conflict" between keeping citizens safe and protecting Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.
"I believe there doesn't have to be a conflict in reconciling these realities," Obama said in Denver, where he stepped up his call for background checks for all gun purchases and renewed his demand that Congress at least vote on banning assault weapons and limiting access to large-capacity ammunition magazines.
"There doesn't have to be a conflict between protecting our citizens and protecting our Second Amendment rights," he said.
President Barack Obama speaks at the Denver Police Academy in Denver, Wednesday. Ratcheting up pressure for Congress to limit access to guns, Obama said that steps taken recently by Colorado to tighten its gun laws show 'there doesn't have to be a conflict' between keeping citizens safe and protecting Second Amendment rights to gun ownership.
Obama noted that more than 100 days have passed since the shooting rampage that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and reignited the national debate over access to guns.
"Every day that we wait to do something about it even more of our fellow citizens are stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun. Now the good news is Colorado has already chosen to do something about it," he said.
In danger of losing congressional momentum on the issue, Obama went to Colorado - which has a deep-rooted hunting tradition and where gun ownership is a cherished right - to use its example and public pressure to prod Congress to act.
Colorado suffered two of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history - at Columbine high school in 1999 and at a movie theater in Aurora last year. It recently expanded background checks for gun purchases and placed restrictions on ammunition magazines.
Prospects for passage of similar measures by Congress appear bleak, largely because of concerns by conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats who come down more on the side of gun rights.
Obama said there is a middle ground.
"Colorado has shown that practical progress is possible," he said. "We've seen enacted tougher background checks that won't infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners, but will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people."
Obama met with 19 law enforcement officers, activists and elected officials at the Denver Police Academy, not far from Aurora, where 12 people were killed in the movie theater shooting. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for James Holmes, the accused shooter.
Among those participating in the discussion with Obama was Sandy Phillips, whose 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Redfield Ghawi, died in the Aurora shooting. She conceded that gun control is a difficult issue, and said she has spoken to numerous lawmakers in Washington who "want to do the right thing without it costing their jobs."
Phillips said she is counting on Obama to press the issue.
"We need to have universal background checks for every sale, that's a minimum," she said in an interview before the meeting. "I hope he keeps pushing for the assault weapons ban and I hope he keeps pushing for magazine restrictions."
In his remarks, Obama pushed Congress to vote on banning assault weapons, limiting access to high-capacity ammunition magazines and other measures.
"I don't believe that weapons designed for theaters of war have a place in movie theaters," Obama said to applause.