By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic legislators said on Wednesday they had seen a groundswell of opposition to the continued sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines and pushed Republicans in the House of Representatives to vote to ban them this week.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats called for a vote on Friday at a news conference announcing a new Gun Control Task Force that was attended by more than two dozen House Democrats.
"Extended clips - assault magazines if you will - we have to take them away from anyone who would commit this kind of crime," said Ron Barber, the Arizona congressman who holds the seat of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
Giffords nearly died last year in a Tucson mass shooting in which the attacker used such clips and killed six people.
"We cannot go on blithely believing that we can solve this problem in other ways. We have to look at the weaponry used and we have to look at the people who use it and we have to do something about both," said Barber.
The White House announced separately on Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will lead its effort to reduce gun violence, a movement that has jumped back into the U.S. political spotlight since a mass shooting on Friday in which 20 young children were killed at a Connecticut school.
The House Democrats said their bill now has 150 co-sponsorships, after dozens of legislators added their names after the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.
It was not immediately clear whether it stood any chance of passage, or even a vote. Republicans hold a majority of seats in the House, and none supports the bill.
Gun control is one of issues on which there are bitter partisan divides in U.S. politics, with Republicans typically opposing laws seeking to tighten regulation of weapons and ammunition.
Congressional leaders also are preoccupied with negotiating a solution to the year-end "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and spending cuts.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said when asked for comment on the Democrats' request for a vote that House Republicans were focused now on remembering those who perished in Newtown.
"We join President Obama and all Americans in mourning the victims of this awful tragedy," Steel said. "When the vice president's group makes specific proposals, we will take a look. Right now our focus is, and should be, on the victims, their families, and their community."
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jim Loney)