White House: Obama not backing down from assault weapons ban

A Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle is displayed at Firing Line, an indoor shooting range and gun shop, in Aurora, …

The White House says President Barack Obama is still committed to persuading Congress to ban some semi-automatic weapons, despite comments from the vice president that suggested he and Obama would instead embrace more politically popular gun reforms.

"The president has been clear that Congress should reinstate the assault weapons ban and that avoiding this issue just because it's been politically difficult in the past is not an option," Matt Lehrich, a spokesman for Obama, told Yahoo News.

Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Thursday that he will issue a plan to the president next week to address the nation's gun violence problem. Though both Biden and Obama have voiced their support for an assault weapons ban, Biden didn't mention it on Thursday, instead focusing on proposals to close a loophole that allows gun buyers to forgo background checks and a bill to limit the size of ammunition magazines to 10 bullets. Biden also noted that many senators are opposed to a ban but are more receptive to magazine limits, according to the New York Times.

Any assault weapons ban would most likely face a tough road in Congress. President Bill Cinton, who pushed an assault weapons ban through a majority Democratic Congress in 1994, said later that the ban fueled a Republican comeback, with the party winning back the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years in the next election cycle.

Attitudes about assault weapons and gun control have also changed since the '90s: Polling shows that background checks and magazine limits enjoy majority support among the public, while an assault weapons ban does not.

Olivier Knox contributed to this report.