Obama makes biggest gun-control push
Washington, January 17, 2013
President Barack Obama launched the biggest US gun-control push in generations on Wednesday, urging Congress to approve an assault weapons ban and background checks for all gun buyers.
Rolling out a wide-ranging plan for executive and legislative action to curb gun violence, Obama set up a fierce clash with the powerful US gun lobby and its supporters in Congress, who will resist what they see as an encroachment on constitutionally protected gun rights.
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 December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
"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.
In a sign of how bitter the fight over gun control could get, the National Rifle Association released an advertisement hours before Obama spoke that accused him of hypocrisy for accepting armed Secret Service protection for his daughters. The White House condemned the ad as "repugnant."
Until now, Obama had done little to change America's gun culture. But just days before his second inauguration, he appears determined to champion gun control in his next term, which also will be dominated by debt and spending fights with Congress and a likely debate over immigration reform.
His plan calls on Congress to renew a prohibition on assault weapons sales that expired in 2004, require criminal background checks on all gun purchases, including closing a loophole for gun show sales, and 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.
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. - Reuters