Washington, Jan. 16: President Obama called upon Congress today to toughen America’s gun laws to confront mass shootings and everyday gun violence, betting that public opinion has shifted enough to support the broadest push for gun control in a generation.
At a White House event at noon, Obama announced plans to introduce legislation by next week that includes a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, expanded background checks for gun purchases and new gun trafficking laws to crack down on the spread of weapons across the country.
He also promised to act without Congressional approval to increase the enforcement of existing gun laws and improve the flow of information among federal agencies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have them.
The announcement was the culmination of a monthlong process that began after the massacre of 20 children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. In the wake of the shootings, Obama pledged action.
Today’s announcement reflected a decision by the White House to seize on public outrage to challenge the political power of the National Rifle Association and other forces that have successfully fought new gun laws for decades.
The President vowed to fight hard for the new gun laws, saying that the country’s leaders are compelled to act by the tragedies of gun deaths across the country. “In the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” he said. “If there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”
Obama opened his call for new gun laws by quoting from some of the letters he received from children — several of whom were sitting in the audience at the White House — urging him to take action on gun violence. “This is our first task as a society,” Obama said. “Keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.”
Bruce Reed, the chief of staff for Vice-President Joseph R. Biden Jr., told a group of liberal activists last night that passing the President’s proposals in Congress will be even tougher than it was to pass an assault-weapons ban in 1994.