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 615.

    All the mass shootings in the UK ...using legal weapons."

    For the UK this statement is factually WRONG!

    There have only been a few cases in the UK, and in almost all of them the guns used were illegally held.

    Of those few that did use legally own guns, it was also true that had the local Police/Firearms inspectors performed their jobs correctly they would not have had them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 614.

    On the twittersphere, the NRA are increasingly being associated with the Taliban. However Twitter also indicates the tolerance of the American people towards guns has now been exceeded.

    The NRA are going to lose this one, and gun controls are coming.

    Replying to rascall, detailed academic research is unable to provide any evidence whatsoever. I will provide you the academic link on request.

  • rate this

    Comment number 613.

    According to the FBI database, there were 303 murders in the US in 2011 by rifles (and that isn’t just assault rifles, that is all rifles). Of that, eight states, the District of Columbia (which has horrible violent crime rates), and the Virgin Islands had 0 murders involving rifles. Are we trying to solve the real problems, or just play on people's emotions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 612.

    If we can save one life... and create fear in a million lives... then we must try

    Otherwise the People will rule America, not the Government

    President Obama
    January 2013

  • rate this

    Comment number 611.

    Mr Max: you say why aren't there atrocities in Bosnia where there is substantial gun ownership. Well let's cast our minds back to the ethnic cleansing.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 610.

    Availability is not the real issue. Sorry to be blunt.

    There are factors too numerous to name or explain here as to why individuals perpetrate these henous crimes.

    The sad fact is that you can not legislate these problems of society out of existence.

    I don't have all these answers or even some of them unfortunately.

    Good Night from Scotland!

  • rate this

    Comment number 609.

    I find it astonishing that the best the US government can come up with is "a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and wider background checks on gun buyers". Ban guns and less people will get shot! The argument that so called "normal" individuals do not shoot people is a ridiculous. As is the argument that it is the 2nd amendment. Times and society changes, we need to adapt with it

  • rate this

    Comment number 608.

    592. Harri
    So it is no exaggeration to say that it is the gun enthusiast and the gun laws that has been the problem."

    It is an exaggeration. On all occasions, the laws were not at fault. It was a failure of the police to follow through with their checks. This was the official conclusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 607.


    My statement is facetious but it irritates me that out, yet again, are being dragged illogical, recycled, draconian arguments. As with their healthcare, as with their fiscal policies, as with their religious rights, gay marriage and an array of other issues, their points of view are so polarised that there is never any middle ground. It's like listening to imbeciles on both sides.

  • rate this

    Comment number 606.

    554. Trowa127
    Switzerland ...have higher per-capita gun ownership yet has some of the lowest gun and violent crime rates in the World.
    I am sure that is a huge comfort to the families of the victims of that nutter who shot five and killed three in Daillon recently.

  • rate this

    Comment number 605.

    So if it is safer when the public have no guns why does the President go everywhere with massive armed security? Even in neutered gunless UK when he visits? After all, us being disarmed makes everything safe doesn't it? Or are he and the anti gun lobby lying? Shotguns will still be available, even here, great for mass killing of the disarmed. Still we can call the police for a crime number.

  • rate this

    Comment number 604.

  • rate this

    Comment number 603.

    I am British and unlike the vast majority of British posters i have been at the two different ends of guns and i certainly prefer the side with the trigger.

    I own a hammer, its not a weapon till i hit someone with it. Americans view guns in much the same manner, i do believe their citizens should have a choice in gun ownership. The real question is, why does obama not hold a referendum on it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 602.

    248. rascall: "The second amendment is in the constitution to allow the people to protect themselves from unjust government"

    The way Americans conduct their politics could be to blame for this level of paranoia and suspicion of those in power. The campaigns are pretty hostile & dirty, but while the politicians are thinking of short-term gains, some voters are taking that stuff way to seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 601.

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    DC gun murders in 1976 (before the gun ban) - 188
    Gun murders in 1993 - 454
    Gun murders in 2012 ( ban struck down in 2007. Heller case) - 88

    Yup. Banning guns really works.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 599.

    564.John in Kent

    Completely correct; being a victim of terrorism is about on par with getting struck by lightning.

    But then we did have the zanuLabour party in power, and they loved it.

    How else could they remove legal protections we had for almost a millennia, and start to build surveillance systems for telephone, email, internet, CCTV that the Stasi of East Germany could only have dreamed of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 598.

    @584 Under Magna Carta we still have them rights just politicians don't want us to know that. The Contract between the Crown and People is still legal as we the people have not voted to rescind it. @591 see my comment at 581 about this matter and it shows what I mean with comments like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 597.

    @591 Simon great idea, lets ban all the peoples' opinions that you don't like, that will make for a good debate. We are talking about american law here, which really is none of our business we are sticking our noses in, i'd rather hear what they have to say than you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 596.

    responding to an earlier post, if the second amendment is about protecting oneself from an unjust government why bother to vote when you can storm congress with an assault rifle and some high capacity magazines. The gun control argument is about sensible and responsible gun ownership not repealing the second amendment.


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