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Pressure builds on Biden to act on guns in wake of Colorado mass shooting

Biden is expected to be briefed again Tuesday morning on the deadly shooting, two White House officials said, and plans to comment on the shooting at some point later in the day. He was planning to travel to Ohio to promote the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.

The President’s team has met with gun control advocates over the past two months to discuss potential executive actions and to generate ideas on potential paths forward, according to people familiar with the meetings. Those meetings have been led by Susan Rice, director of the Domestic Policy Council and Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to Biden and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Richmond, speaking on MSNBC on Tuesday morning, said: “The regular sentiment of hearts and prayers are not enough.”

“We need action on this in the country,” he said, pointing to recently passed legislation in the House. “This President has a track record of fighting against the NRA and beating them, and we need to make sure that we have sensible gun regulations in this country to ensure safety. And so we need action, not just words and prayers.”

Among the executive actions Biden could advance include requiring background checks on “ghost guns” that don’t have serial numbers or strengthening the federal background check system to alert law enforcement agencies when someone fails a check. Biden has also said he will task the attorney general with better enforcement of existing gun laws. And advocates have raised the idea of sending more federal money to communities afflicted by gun violence.

But some advocates walked away from meetings at the White House without a clear picture of the timeline for unveiling any gun control steps or a legislative plan for advancing gun control measures in an evenly split Congress. It wasn’t clear from the meetings whether Biden would support doing away with the filibuster for gun control legislation.

During his private meeting with Asian community leaders in Atlanta last week, the issue of gun control did arise briefly when one of the participants spoke about a background check bill that was being introduced in the Georgia Legislature, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Biden voiced his support for expanding background checks but did not offer a timeline and later, during public remarks at Emory University, made no mention of gun control.

Ultimately, gun control issues — which face an uphill battle for passage in a Senate narrowly controlled by Democrats — are further down on Biden’s list of legislative priorities than issues such as infrastructure and immigration.

As a candidate, Biden said on his first day in office he would send a bill to Congress repealing liability protection for gun manufacturers and close background check loopholes, actions he has yet to take seven weeks into office.

“It remains a commitment, a personal commitment of the President’s, to do more on gun safety, to put more measures in place, to use the power of the presidency, to work with Congress. And certainly there’s an important role for the attorney general and the Justice Department to play in this regard,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last Thursday. “Unfortunately, don’t have any updates for you today, but it is an issue he remains committed to.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on the future of gun control in the Senate. Two House-passed bills tackled who can buy a gun and how to close loopholes on background checks but the votes are not there in the 50-50 Senate to pass the House bills, or an assault weapons ban or a limit on magazines. Despite this, Schumer has pledged to bring the House’s universal background check bill to the floor.

The sticking point between Republicans and Democrats on background checks is on if there should be exceptions and if so, who they should apply to. Most lawmakers agree that if you are going to go and buy a gun from a licensed firearm dealer or at a gun show, you should have a background check. What they don’t agree on is whether when you sell a gun to a family member or friend or privately transfer a gun, do you have to run a background check?

That’s why the 2013 bipartisan deal struck by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, was a significant agreement. It struck a compromise and would have required background checks on all commercial sales of guns. But it failed in 2013 and is not the legislation that Democrats are currently looking at bringing up for a vote.

CNN’s Lauren Fox and Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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