Obama unveils sweeping gun control measures
WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama Wednesday demanded an assault weapons ban and universal background checks for gun buyers as part of sweeping gun control measures in response to the Newtown school massacre.
“We can’t put this off any longer. I will put everything I’ve got into this,” Obama said, daring Congress not to defy public outrage and block his plans and setting the stage for a generational fight with the US gun lobby.
Obama signed 23 executive actions, using his presidential power in a swift effort to check a rash of gun violence including the killings of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month and other recent mass shootings.
And he challenged Congress to enshrine enduring reforms into law, including renewing and bolstering a ban on assault weapons, and closing loopholes that permit 40 percent of gun sales to take place without background checks.
“This will be difficult,” Obama warned, unveiling measures drawn up by a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden at a White House event attended by gun crime victims, including the parents of a girl who perished in Newtown.
“There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty,” Obama said.
“Behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever,” Obama said, underlining he did not oppose the right to bear arms laid down in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
The National Rifle Association, the top gun lobby group, warned that only law abiding gun owners would be affected, and “our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”
Immediate reaction from pro-gun politicians to Obama’s plans to curb 11,000 annual firearms homicides in America also hinted at the unpromising political
terrain the president’s plans face.
Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid welcomed the “thoughtful” proposals but gave no commitment to act on specific measures.
While background checks may attract support, a ban on assault weapons could force many Democrats from largely conservative states to unwelcome tough votes in the run-up to the 2014 mid-term elections.