Obama Calls for Sweeping New Gun Laws
Setting the stage for what could be the most sweeping political battle over gun control in decades, President Obama today laid out a comprehensive package for reducing gun violence in America, a multi-part plan he says will not only "help prevent mass shootings" but also "reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country."
Speaking to an audience that included family members of those killed a month ago in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as children who wrote to Mr. Obama in the wake of recent episodes of mass violence, the president acknowledged the difficulties of pursuing stricter legislation on gun laws, but argued that he would use "whatever weight this office holds" to achieve his goals.
"Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try," he said. "This is our first task as a society: Keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change."
The president, who was accompanied by Vice President Biden onstage, outlined a series of steps both political and administrative he says would limit access to guns and certain types of ammunition, make mental health care more attainable, and increase federal funds for both research and law enforcement.
Among the initiatives outlined in Mr. Obama's plan include universal background checks for gun sales, the reinstatement and strengthening of the assault weapons ban, capping ammunition magazines to a 10-round limit, banning armor-piercing ammunition, providing schools with resource officers and school counselors, putting more police officers on the streets, creating serious punishments for gun trafficking, and ensuring that health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
The president also outlined a series of 23 executive actions he can take without congressional approval, including measures aimed at making federal background check data widely available, accessible, and maximally effective; staying ahead of the curve on the newest gun safety measures; tracing seized guns and ensuring they don't go back into the hands of dangerous gun owners; making sure schools and other institutions are equipped and prepared for the possibility of shooter situations; aggressively prosecuting gun crime; and improving mental health resources and discourse.
Immediately after his remarks, Mr. Obama signed a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community additional tools for reducing gun violence.
But he argued the possibilities for change would be limited barring the active participation of the voting public.
"I will put everything I've got into this -- and so will Joe -- but I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it," Mr. Obama said. "We're going to need voices in those areas and those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important. It can't just be the usual suspects. We have to examine ourselves in our hearts, and ask yourselves what is important?"