US gun debate: Obama unveils gun control proposals


President Obama: "To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act"

US President Barack Obama has unveiled the most sweeping gun control proposals in two decades, setting up a showdown with firearms rights advocates.

He called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and wider background checks on gun buyers.

The Democratic president also signed 23 executive actions, which do not require congressional approval.

A month after the school massacre in Connecticut, he said gun-control reforms could wait no longer.

Mr Obama unveiled the proposals at the White House on Wednesday, flanked by children who wrote him letters after December's Newtown shooting, which left 20 children and six teachers dead.

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It is hard to see how the ban on assault rifles will get past Republican (and indeed some Democratic) opposition in Congress”

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Mr Obama said: "If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try."

The top US gun lobbying group, the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), said the proposals were "not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation".

"Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy," the group said in a statement.

The president urged Congress:

  • to reintroduce an expired ban on new purchases of "military-style" assault weapons, such as those used in several recent mass shootings
  • limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and pass a ban on possession and sale of armour-piercing bullets
  • introduce background checks on all gun sales; currently private purchases and some transactions at gun shows are exempt
  • introduce harsher penalties for gun-traffickers, especially unlicensed dealers who buy arms for criminals
  • finally approve the appointment of the head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Mr Obama also signed 23 unilateral orders, including an end to a ban on gun-violence research by a prominent federal agency, and a measure promoting responsible gun ownership.

The parents of Dylan Hockley, killed at Sandy Hook, spoke to the BBC

But he acknowledged his legislative push would encounter stiff opposition in Congress.

"This will be difficult," he said.

"There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty -- not because that's true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves.

"And behind the scenes, they'll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed Obama's measures.

"He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights," Mr Priebus said of the president, "but took actions that disregard the second amendment and the legislative process."

'Repugnant and cowardly'

The US has one of the highest rates of civilian gun ownership in the world. The second amendment of the US constitution states that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed".

Although the meaning of the full clause is still debated, many gun-rights advocates read it absolutely and oppose the idea of any curbs on access to weapons.

Can a movement that calls for more guns in the US be effective at saving lives?

The White House proposals follow meetings between a task force led by Vice-President Joe Biden and groups from across the political spectrum.

Mr Biden met gun control and firearms rights advocates, entertainment and video game industry figures, parents of shooting victims and law enforcement officials.

The task force also consulted the NRA, which says it has signed up more than 100,000 members since the Newtown massacre.

Earlier, the NRA released a web advert attacking Mr Obama as "an elitist hypocrite" for allowing Secret Service agents to protect his daughters, while not committing to back armed guards in all US schools.

The White House said the ad was "repugnant and cowardly".

On Wednesday, Mr Obama also proposed freeing up law enforcement funds for schools to hire 1,000 new armed police, school psychologists, social workers or other staff trained to prevent violence.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Mr. Obama is right to push for reform. I am a 62 year-old American who witnessed a gun killing in 1973 and who has worked since that time to resist the truly crazy people who insist that freedom requires semiautomatic firearms. The NRA is apparently a psychotic organization, given that it refuses to believe change is necessary, even in the face of the massacre of 6 years-olds in their school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 709.

    I live in the U.S. & believe in the motto Live Free or Die. Taking away my assault rifles would be an assault on my freedom. Anyone who's seen Red Dawn, Independence Day or the Walking Dead knows you need high capacity magazines & assault rifles. While these movies are fictional they're representative of what could happen. Where would those pacifist liberals be then? Begging for my protection!

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    When the US first ordered car manufacturers to install seat belts, many argued there were so many cars on the road without seat belts the new law would have no effect. Decades later, the law has had a profound effect.

    Similarly, banning assault weapons would not have an immediate effect... but wait a few decades and you will be able to see how many lives such a law will surely end up saving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 641.

    Let's look at it on a personal level. My son was attacked walking towards a train station in London.

    Now, I am convinced that, if the perpetrator had a gun, my son would not be alive and well now. Gun fans in the US would argue that if my son had a gun as well he could defend himself. However, I for one am not willing to gamble my sons life on the possibility that he may be faster on the draw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 600.

    They already banned assault weapon once. Did nothing. All the anti-gun nuts are ignorant to how guns work or are used. Try taking a gun safety class and educate yourself to how guns work. Cars don't kill people, bad drivers and drunk drivers do. so should we ban cars?
    Trying to remove guns from America will cause another civil war.


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