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Obama skeptical of NRA proposal to put more guns in schools

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast on Sunday he hopes to get new U.S. gun control measures passed during the first year of his second term and is skeptical of a proposal by the National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby to put armed guards in schools.

Obama assigned Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force to come up with proposals on guns at the beginning of 2013 after the massacre of 20 children and six adults by a gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, this month.

"I'd like to get it done in the first year. I will put forward a very specific proposal based on the recommendations that Joe Biden's task force is putting together as we speak. And so this is not something that I will be putting off," Obama told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview taped on Saturday.

"I am not going to prejudge the recommendations that are given to me. I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools. And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem," he said.

The influential NRA has said new gun laws are not a good answer and has called for some form of armed guards to be present in all U.S. schools.

Obama, who said the shooting was the worst day of his presidency, attended a memorial service for the Newtown victims and promised he would take swift action to prevent further massacres like that one from being repeated.

The president has faced criticism for failing to take on the gun lobby after other mass shootings that have occurred during his time in office. While bristling at the criticism, the president has indicated that this time something will get done.

"I'm going to be putting forward a package and I'm going to be putting my full weight behind it. And I'm going to be making an argument to the American people about why this is important and why we have to do everything we can to make sure that something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary does not happen again," he said in the interview.

"And the question then becomes whether we are actually shook up enough by what happened here that it does not just become another one of these routine episodes where it gets a lot of attention for a couple of weeks and then it drifts away. It certainly won't feel like that to me."

Gun control is a divisive issue in the United States, where the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, and the NRA has significant political sway.

Proponents of tighter gun laws hope that not having to run for re-election again will give Obama a strengthened hand, but any legislative measures would have to pass the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which has been reluctant to support initiatives proposed by the Democratic president.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

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