Obama makes biggest gun-control push in decades
Reuters and APWASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged a reluctant Congress to ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and require background checks for all gun sales in an emotion-laden plea to curb gun violence in America, though he acknowledged he's in for an uphill battle.
January 18, 2013, 1:32 pm TWN
The president's sweeping, US$500 million plan, coming one month after the school massacre in Connecticut, marks the most comprehensive effort to tighten gun laws in nearly two decades. But his proposals, most of which are opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) and its allies in Washington, face a doubtful future in a divided Congress where Republicans control the House of Representatives.
Obama presented his agenda at a White House event in front of an audience that included relatives of some of the 20 first-graders who were killed along with six adults by a gunman on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“We can't put this off any longer,” Obama said, vowing to use “whatever weight this office holds” to make his proposals reality. “Congress must act soon,” he said, flanked by schoolchildren.
His plan calls on Congress to also pass a new federal gun trafficking law — long sought by big-city mayors to keep out-of-state guns off their streets.
He also announced 23 steps he intends to take immediately without congressional approval. These include improving the existing system for background checks, lifting the ban on federal research on gun violence, putting more counselors and “resource officers” in schools and better access to mental health services.
Obama signed three of the measures at the ceremony. But he acknowledged that the steps he took on his own would have less impact than the broad measures requiring approval from Congress.
“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act,” Obama said. “And Congress must act soon.”
Assault Weapons Battle
Obama, who has called the day of the Newtown massacre the worst of his presidency, looked down into the audience and addressed the parents of one of the Sandy Hook victims, Grace McDonald, 7, saying he had hung one of her paintings in his private study.
“Every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace, and I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her, and most of all I think about how when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now,” he said.
As he announced the gun measures, Obama was accompanied by four children chosen from among those who sent letters to him about gun violence and school safety. “We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook. I feel really bad,” 8-year-old Grant Fritz wrote, in a portion Obama read from the podium.
The most contentious piece of the package is Obama's call for a renewed ban on military-style assault weapons, a move that is unlikely to win approval because Republicans who control the House of Representatives are expected to oppose it.
Obama acknowledged the political challenges but made clear he is prepared to take on the NRA, despite its support among Republicans and significant backing among Democrats.
He warned that opponents of his effort would try to “gin up fear” and urged lawmakers to put children's safety above getting an 'A' grade from the gun lobby that supports their campaign.”