President Barack Obama proposed a broad package Wednesday designed to curb gun violence, including a ban on assault weapons, limits on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, required background checks on all gun purchases and stiff new penalties for those who buy guns from unlicensed dealers.
He sent proposed legislation to Congress aimed at taking guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, getting “weapons of war” off the street, making schools safer and offering more mental health services.
Obama also signed 23 executive actions that do not need congressional approval. The executive actions include making it easier for federal and state agencies to make data available to the national background check system; launching a national campaign for safe and responsible gun ownership; reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes; and nominating a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In addition, he called for the training more law enforcement officers and implementing tougher enforcement and prosecution of existing laws. A senior administration official said the executive actions “are not a substitute for legislation action.” The president wants to hire 1,000 new resource officers and counselors for schools and spend $10 million to research violence in the media.
Obama’s proposal -- the most aggressive gun control plan in generations -- comes one month after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.left 26 people, including 20 young children, dead.
The new proposals will cost an estimated $500 million, but White House officials said they do not know how many lives would be saved if they were enacted.
The announcement set off a fierce debate on Capitol Hill, where Republicans and some Democrats oppose changes they fear would chip away at American’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. Some bills may not even get to a vote in the Republican-run House of Representatives. The Senate is expected to begin debate as soon as next week.
The president was joined at the midday event at the White House complex by Vice President Joe Biden, children who wrote to him after the shooting, gun control activists and lawmakers.
The proposals came after the administration, led by Biden, spent a month speaking to more than 200 organizations, including gun control groups, gun owners, religious leaders, law enforcement organizations, the medical community and child advocacy groups.
The United States has more firearms than other nation in the world -- 270 million, according to the international Small Arms Survey, an independent research project at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
Background checks to purchase firearms soared in the days after the Newtown shooting after potential buyers became worried about new restrictions.
Late Tuesday, the National Rifle Association released a video calling Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for not endorsing a proposal to install armed guards in all schools while his own children are protected by armed Secret Service agents at their school.
“Are the president’s kids more important than yours?” the narrator asks. “Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”
Obama is likely to try to urge Congress to pass legislative by staging a public relations blitz, as he has done in recent months.
"I know that the president believes and has learned over the course of his first term that it is vitally important when trying to move forward on an agenda that is both necessary and enjoys popular support that we engage the public, White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “And that’s an approach he’s taken for some time now, and I think, broadly speaking, it’s an approach he’ll continue to take.”