Barack Obama takes guns rules campaign to Midwest

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Barack Obama on Monday takes his gun control campaign to Minneapolis, where efforts have helped curtail violence in a state that is also home to an active hunting culture.

"Minneapolis is a city that has taken important steps to reduce gun violence and foster a conversation in the community about what further action is needed," a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The state of Minnesota is also emblematic of the challenges Obama will face in advancing gun control in Congress.

While the state's two Democratic US senators have said they are sympathetic to measures to curb gun violence, the National Rifle Association, the largest gun-rights group in the country, has backed all four Republicans and two of the Democrats who represent Minnesota in the House of Representatives, according to data compiled by the Centre for Responsive Politics.

Obama wants to move quickly to pass laws before memories fade of the December mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

He proposed on Jan. 16 requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including private sales, banning so-called assault weapons, and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.

Gun control efforts face an uphill climb politically in the face of a strong pro-gun lobby and a strong US tradition of hunting and gun ownership. A right to bear arms is constitutionally guaranteed to Americans.

An effort to ban assault rifles is seen as the toughest sell among the president's proposals in a country where many Americans see gun control as an infringement of their rights and an example of government overreach.

However, the Newtown massacre mobilised support for measures to contain access to certain guns and ammunition. Obama has put Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a push to get Congress to pass legislation that would make it harder for people who have criminal backgrounds or who are mentally unbalanced to obtain guns.