Obama unveils biggest gun-control push in generations
By Matt Spetalnick and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama proposed a new assault weapons ban and mandatory background checks for all gun buyers on Wednesday in a bid to channel national outrage over the Newtown school massacre into the biggest U.S. gun-control push in generations.
Rolling out a wide-ranging plan for executive and legislative action to curb gun violence, Obama set up a fierce clash with the powerful U.S. gun lobby and its supporters in Congress, who are expected to 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 children from around the country, a poignant reminder of the 20 first-graders who were killed along with six adults by a lone gunman on December 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
"While reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn't be a divisive one," Obama said.
Until now, Obama had done little to rein in America's weapons culture during his first four years in office. But just days before his second inauguration, he appears determined to champion gun control in his next term with a concerted drive for tighter laws and other steps aimed at preventing further tragedies like the one at Newtown.
The proposals stem from a month-long review led by Vice President Joe Biden, who on orders from Obama met with advocates on both sides, including representatives from the weapons and entertainment industries.
Obama's plan calls on Congress for a renewed prohibition on assault weapons sales that expired in 2004, a requirement for criminal background checks on all gun purchases, including closing a loophole for gun show sales, and 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 improvements in the existing system for background checks, lifting the ban on federal research into gun violence, putting more counselors and "resource officers" in schools and improved access to mental health services. Continued...