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 275.

    Having argued with some very conservative U.S. citizens on the subject, I just can't see any changes in gun laws going over well in that crazy country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Few years ago a research tried to profile "gun lovers". It found that majority of the people are- 1) highly religious, 2) have below average current affair awareness & sense of logic (i.e lower IQ), 3) believe in right wing politics, mostly GOP 4) have tattoos &/or body piercing, 5) hereditary.

    Is there any convicted criminal of gun violence who support gun control or an atheist? probably no.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    Its a shame that millions of law abiding American gun owners are being penalised but what is sadder is that their representatives (NRA etc) aren't even coming to the table with the President to be a part of the solution.
    Their rhetoric and siege mentality looks quite ridiculous from this side of the pond and in the face of grieving parents it is actually quite offensive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    Anybody who wants to own a gun needs psychiatric help.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    The second amendment that gives American citizens the right to bear arm has become so abused by extremists that it requires an amendment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Just watched the Piers Morgan - Alex Jones interview on youtube, Good example of how you just can't have a sensible discussion with the "pro-gun" mentality. I can't stand Piers normally but I'm completely with him on this one and that Alex character is unbelievable - 35 gun murders in UK versus 11,000 in US is just a "factoid" to distract people..........

  • Comment number 269.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    We're done with you Obama! You've circumvented congress for the last time & we're going to exorcise our constitutional right and overthrow this tyrannical government. We the People (with 360,000.000 guns) will not be thwarted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 267.

    The Mental Health / Character checks on the registered firearm applicants / licence holders would have been totally useless in these cases as the shootings were done by non firearm licence holders.

    A good idea would to require that all firearms are kept in secure cabinets as in this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 266.

    I keep seeing the question “who could object to banning assault weapons” and I understand the confusion. What they are actually talking about banning is semi-automatic rifles. For folks who don’t shoot, I understand the difference may not seem significant, but I constantly see images of fully automatic rifles being shown when they are talking about restrictions on semi-automatic rifles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 265.

    I'm reasonably sure the drafters of the second amendment in 1791 would have framed it differently if they were dealing with assault rifles, high capacity magazines and amour piercing bullets and not ye old flintlocks!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 264.

    Why do we keep hearing the junk logic of 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'. The China stabbings show very clearly what happens when someone goes crazy with a knife - 22 injured. Give them an assalt rifle and that can become 26 dead. It is the nature of the weapon that makes the difference. In China guns are all but prohibited - in the US they are a cultural icon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 263.

    im not saying that its okay if just fewer are killed eg a knife is used instead of a gun? what im saying is the loss of life in the sandy hock incident was due to firearms being used
    No, you said guns kill people not people - 233.
    I would also like to point out people have killed each other long before guns were invented or do you disgree?

  • rate this

    Comment number 262.

    I am surprised some parent or other hasnt set up an online crusade to email the Congress, mainly for children to petition the Congress. It would be a foolhardy congressman to ignore the plea of innocence? Certainly would make a few of them sweat & have a few sleep less nights?

  • rate this

    Comment number 261.

    Getting late now so less UK posters. However it is still early in the US so I cannot wait to have a look in the morning at all the highly rated lunatic posts extolling the virtues of guns

  • rate this

    Comment number 260.

    I believe that when the 2nd amendment was adopted in 1791 the States relied on a militia of untrained volunteers who (naturally) had to have access, hence ownership, of a gun. The USA no longer has a militia - it has been replaced by an enormous military force so the reason for the 2nd amendment is no longer valid. It should be repealed. Why make it easy for psychotic people to kill?

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Obama should make it clear to Reince Priebus in private that his home area (Kenosha) will get no federal funds over which Obama has influence whilst Priebus maintains his position. This would include, for example, the recent application for a $30 million schools grant (for one of the richest schools systems in the region).

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.

    “I keep hearing this [expletive] thing that guns don't kill people, but people kill people. If that's the case, why do we give people guns when they go to war? Why not just send the people?”
    ― Ozzy Osbourne

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    So how many cars were used in mass killings in theatres, schools and shopping malls in the US last year. How many people who were run over by their cars while cleaning them. How many times children were killed by other children while playing with their parents cars while they were out the room.How many youths in hoodies were run over by night watchmen because he thought they had a car. Do tell?

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    Whether it's Britain, Australia or Japan, the evidence is consistent and unambiguous: strict gun control means fewer people die. The unwillingness of Americans to face this basic arithmetic and recognise that the major factor underpinning the high level of gun violence and the slaughter of innocents is ready access to military-grade assault weapons is both baffling and frustrating.


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