President Obama touts background checks, assault weapons ban in gun control proposal

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CNN – President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed background checks on all gun sales and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as part of a package of steps to reduce gun violence in the wake of the Newtown school massacre last month.

With relatives of some of the 20 children killed in the Connecticut rampage looking on, Obama signed 23 executive actions that don’t require congressional approval that he said would strengthen background checks and expand safety programs in schools.

He also called on Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, to restrict ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds, and to require a background check on anyone buying a gun, whether at a store or in a private sale at an auction or convention.

Referring to the young students killed in the Newtown shootings on December 14 and other victims of gun violence, Obama said the nation must do a better job of protecting its children, especially when they are in public places such as schools, shopping malls and movie theaters.

While some of the steps he proposed are given little chance of winning congressional approval in the face of the nation’s powerful gun lobby, Obama said all efforts must be made to reduce chronic gun violence in the country.

“This is our first task as a society — keeping our children safe,” the president said, adding that saving even one life would make the changes he seeks worth the effort.

Already under fire by the National Rifle Association, which claims Obama seeks to violate the constitutional right for civilians to bear arms, the president said that wasn’t true.

“We can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale,” he said.

Obama proposed legislative steps he previously has backed, such as reinstating the Clinton-era ban on assault weapons, and also requested that funds be made available to help treat mental illness and provide schools with support to enhance their safety.

Vice President Joe Biden led a panel assembled by Obama to examine gun control steps after the Newtown shootings, which sparked a fierce public debate over how to prevent such mass killings.

“The world has changed, and it’s demanding action,” Biden said at Wednesday’s White House event.

Opponents led by the NRA promise a political fight, with an NRA spokesman saying Tuesday that the group has experienced what he called an “unprecedented” spike in membership numbers since new calls for gun control began in the past month.

Approximately 250,000 people have joined the organization’s existing 4.25 million members, according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.

“This is in direct response to the threats and accusations coming from” Obama and other political leaders, Arulanandam said, adding that “if anyone is wondering if the American people cared about the Second Amendment … those numbers give a very clear answer.”

In addition, the NRA is receiving an influx of financial contributions, he said, adding: “This is going to be a very expensive and hard-fought fight.”

However, new polls show increased public support for stronger gun control measures,and Obama called for citizens to let their elected representatives know what they think.

“The only way we can change is if the American people demand it,” Obama said.

His executive actions signed Wednesday called for tougher enforcement of existing laws and required federal agencies to provide data for background checks.

Obama also said he would nominate B. Todd Jones, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to become its permanent chief. The agency has been without a full-time director for six years.

A main focus of Obama’s steps was closing loopholes in background checks. While requiring universal background checks would require congressional approval, some of the executive actions signed by Obama were intended to bolster the existing system.

Across the country, more than a million people failed background checks to buy guns during the past 14 years because of criminal records, drug use or mental health issues, according to FBI figures.

That figure, however, is a small fraction of overall gun sales.

Obama also called for more money to strengthen gun safety at schools, including hiring more counselors such as retired law enforcement officers to help educate students on gun issues. He also called for more funding for communities to hire more police officers, but stopped short of seeking the NRA’s proposal for armed guards at every school.

Legislators said working with Congress will be paramount in curbing gun violence. California Rep. Mike Thompson told CNN on Tuesday that a ban on high-capacity magazines could garner Republican support, but a full-scale assault weapon ban would be hard to get passed in the GOP-controlled House.

House and Senate committees said they would start holding hearings on gun control measures in coming weeks.

In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed into law a series of new gun regulations — the nation’s first since the Newtown shootings.

Both New York’s GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly approved the measure by overwhelming margins.

It includes a statewide gun registry and adds a uniform licensing standard across the state, altering the current system, in which each county or municipality sets a standard.

Residents are also restricted to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10.

“The changes in New York are largely cosmetic,” said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who described state’s existing regulations as “the toughest gun laws in the United States.”

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are reviewing some form of new gun regulations in the new year.

CNN’s Carol Cratty, Jim Acosta, Paul Steinhauser, David Ariosto and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

23 comments

    • MeatPlow

      When that happens the communist in chief will be delighted to ban ALL guns. And the uniformed will go along with it, without regard to how many crimes are thwarted by gun owners.

  • John Browning

    The same day as the Sandy Hook shooting almost 20 children in China were stabbed in a school knife attack (death toll unreported). In 2010 almost 20 children DIED in China as a result of a school knife attack. NEWS FLASH: When murdering defenseless children, it doesn't matter what weapon you use, they are all effective.

    The time it takes to change magazines can be the difference between life or death when defending yourself against an armed attacker. When you are shooting defenseless children and have 45 minutes before the police enter the building, it is a minor inconvenience. So how is this going to make us safer?

    Interesting facts that nobody is talking about:

    – Connecticut already HAS an "assault weapon" ban.
    – The largest school massacre in US history didn't involve a gun
    – "Assault weapon" bans prohibit guns based on what they LOOK LIKE, not how they function.

      • Clayton

        They where throat slashings not stabbings. It was reported 19 died, then the Chinese government came out and said nobody died… Please tell me how you can slash 20 throats of children and not have a single causality. Also how much do you trust the Chinese government, the only reason they even admitted it happened was because the story was already broke.

  • MeatPlow

    If your neighbor has a gun, and ya'll get along, who do you think will be the first to show up at your door ready to help you? Not the Police, Not Obama, Your neighbor.

  • Ron Melancon

    Today our President stated this fact…“This is our first task as a society — keeping our children safe,” the president said, adding that saving even one life would make the changes he seeks worth the effort.

    Dear President Obama….if your statement is true then how about all the Unregistered Utility Trailers and Defective Boat, Horse and Utility Trailers on the Roads of America and right to the point……Look at what happened to Natalie.
    Then why is the Utility Trailer Industry and the Insurance Industry held to the same standard when they and our own government allows Homemade Trailers and Unispected trailers……
    Should not the same be done about dangeroustrailers DOT ORG

  • Educated

    I dont agree with the bans. they will not help. I do however agree that better background checks and stricter enforcement would be great. Also the notifications for mental health issues. He has some valid points excepting the ban.

    • John Browning

      I wouldn't have a problem with requiring background checks on private sales as long as they could:

      1) preserve people's privacy
      2) do it at no expense to the buyer or seller
      3) not require sellers to keep paperwork for 15 years

      If they would open up the NICS checks to allow regular people to use it, that would be awesome. However I don't know how you would do that and still preserve people's privacy. Unless you require sellers to keep paperwork on file (which I strongly oppose) there is no way to prove the "buyer" (if they really were one) ever consented to the check. Without opening up the NICS check system to regular people, I don't see how this can be accomplished without costing buyers/sellers money. FFLs charge $40-$100 to do a transfer when you aren't buying from them. That is unreasonable to force people to pay those fees.

      I'm not opposed to background checks, I'm opposed to how they are going to do it. They are simply going to require you pay an FFL to do the transfer for you. They are creating a solution (that costs me money) to a problem that doesn't exist. Most guns used in crimes are obtained through straw purchases, not private transactions. Why? Because private sellers aren't worried about looking racist or prejudiced. If a buyer looks like a ghetto thug, they aren't going to sell to them. If they look like a quackjob, they won't sell. Often times buyers require you show them your license to carry as a means to know you are "OK" (I do).

      • Clayton

        You sir need a new FFL holder to do your transfers. I pay 5-20 dollars (depending on how far I feel like driving before receiving my new toy.) The only reason I do not object to paying that is because that guy has to eat too. The federal government or some agency created by them needs not exist nor do they need more of my money.

  • Clayton

    Over 300 people a year die from falling in the bath. More than die from mass shootings in a decade. Ban baths let us all smell like the French!

  • Duane

    My only question is: Can someone, anyone, please define Mental Illness?? Where do you draw the line at Mental Illness? I understand people who have schizophrenia have a mental illness. But what about having an eating disorder? Its still a mental illness. Insomnia is a mental illness. Having a "tic" is a mental illness. The list goes on & on. Who decides WHAT mental illness is dangerous & which is not? Plus, some people are perfectly mentally healthy, & then just SNAP for one reason or another. Are there going to be laws that force people to seek treatment now?Are ALL gun owners going to have to undergo a Psychiatric Evaluation BEFORE purchasing a gun? What about those who were "fine" when they bought their guns, but now are not for one reason or another??

  • Jeremy

    Just saw your statistics on murders related to firearms and I would like to know what percentage of those crimes were committed
    by legally purchased firearms as opposed to those illegally or privately purchased?

  • Nate

    Again Obama your an idiot!!! Not because your Muslim or a wanna be black person!!! Even if your Mexican or white. If this law passes some crazy ass person will go shoot people just for the hell of it to prove something to show u your law or bill doesn’t mean shit!!! It’s sad to say that but we all know it will happen sooner or later again. This world is so f’ed up. It’s just going to get worse and it’s sad but what can we do.

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