WASHINGTON (AP): Braced for a fight, President Barack Obama yesterday unveiled the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades, pressing a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting.
A month after that horrific massacre, Obama also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don't require the backing of lawmakers. The president's executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centres for Disease Control to research gun violence.
Congress must act
But the president, speaking at a White House ceremony, focused his attention on the divided Congress, saying only lawmakers could enact the most effective measures for preventing more mass shootings.
"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act," Obama said. "And Congress must act soon."
The president vowed to use "whatever weight this office holds" to press lawmakers into action on his $500-million plan. He is also calling for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk.
Among the proposals for curbing gun violence announced yesterday by President Barack Obama are:
NEEDS CONGRESSIONAL ACTION:
- Requiring background checks on all gun sales. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says 40 per cent of gun sales are conducted with no criminal background check, such as at gun shows and by private sellers over the Internet or through classified ads. Obama said there should be exceptions for cases like certain transfers among family members and temporary transfers for hunting purposes.
- Reinstating the assault weapons ban. A 10-year ban on high-grade, military-style weapons expired in 2004.
- Renewing a 10-round limit on the size of ammunition magazines.
- Prohibiting the possession, transfer, manufacture and import of dangerous armour-piercing bullets.
- New gun-trafficking laws penalising people who help criminals get guns.
- Address legal barriers in health laws that bar some states from making available information about people who are prohibited from having guns.
- Make sure that federal agencies share relevant information with the background-check system.
- Give local communities the opportunity to hire up to 1,000 school resource officers and counsellors.
- Require federal law enforcement to trace all recovered guns.
- Propose regulations that will enable law enforcement to run complete background checks before returning firearms that have been seized.
- Direct the Justice Department to analyse information on lost and stolen guns and make that information available to law enforcement.
- Provide training for state and local law enforcement, first responders and school officials on how to handle active-shooter situations.
- Make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency-management plan.
- Encourage development of new technology to make it easier for gun owners to safely use and store their guns.