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On Gun Control and Fiscal Cliff, White House Has Few Specifics

President Barack Obama will offer up a new gun control agenda — but not right now. Ditto for any meaningful comment from the White House on the status of the fiscal cliff talks.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spent about 45 minutes Monday dodging questions about how the president declined during the past four years to make a major push for gun control. Carney also deflected questions on Speaker John A. Boehner’s latest offers to the president regarding the fiscal cliff.

On guns, Carney said the president would have more to say in the “coming weeks.”

“I don’t have a specific agenda to announce to you today,” Carney said. He did reiterate the president’s support for reinstating the assault weapons ban, pointing out that Obama has held that position since the ban expired in 2004, and said broadly that improving background checks was important.

But the president has done almost nothing to push for the assault weapons ban or other gun control measures in his first term — as other agenda items took precedence over a fight many in his own party didn’t want to wage and didn’t think they could win against the powerful National Rifle Association’s lobby.

Carney was left repeating generalities from the president’s speech last night in Newtown, Conn.

“It’s a complex problem that will require a complex solution. No single piece of legislation, no single action will fully address the problem,” Carney said.

Carney repeatedly said that the president would “engage the American people,” law enforcement, mental health professionals and the like on a strategy to deal with gun violence. But Obama has talked about taking action before after past shootings, without much evidence of anything happening.

Asked by ABC’s Jake Tapper of one example of a presidential action that has taken “weapons of war” off of the streets, Carney was unable to name one. He did, however, say that the administration has taken some actions to improve background checks.

As for the negotiations with Ohio Republican Boehner, Carney said “conversations continue” but refused to characterize the status of the talks, other than to say that the president’s proposal remains the “only” one that achieves the balance needed to protect the middle class from bearing too much of the burden of deficit reduction.

He ducked questions about whether the president could move off of his position that tax rates must go up for those with an annual income of more than $250,000. Some news reports have indicated that Boehner offered to raise that threshold to $1 million.

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