Obama unveils $500m gun violence package

AAP
4:38am January 17, 2013
January 17, 2013: US President Barack Obama has outlined 23 separate actions he'll take to tighten gun control based on recommendations from a task force that was established in response to the Sandy Hook massacre.

President Barack Obama has launched the most sweeping effort to curb US gun violence in nearly two decades a month after a shooting in Connecticut killed 20 school children.

The package $US500 million ($475.35 million) package calls on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines.

The plan would also close loopholes in the background check system for gun sales.

Obama has signed 23 executive actions - which require no congressional approval - including several aimed at improving access to data for background checks.

"This is the land of the free and the home of the brave and always will be," Obama said, acknowledging the constitutional right to bear arms. "But we've also long realised ... that with rights come responsibilities."

Families of the victims of last month's shooting were invited to the White House for the president's announcement, which promises to set up a bitter fight with a powerful pro-gun lobby that has long warned supporters that Obama wanted to take away their guns.

January 17, 2013: The NRA has released a controversial television advertisement labelling President Barack Obama an ‘elitist hypocrite’ in response to new reforms on gun control.

The US has the highest rate of gun ownership of any country in the world, and pro-gun groups see any move on gun restrictions as an offence against the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution.

Critics counter that the country's founding fathers never could have foreseen assault weapons more than two centuries ago, when guns were intended for the common, not individual, defence, guns were often stored in community areas and rifles fired one shot at a time.

Emotions have been high since the Connecticut shooting, which Obama has called the worst day of his presidency. He largely ignored the issue of gun violence during his first term but appears willing to stake his second term on it now.

He'll have to contend with looming fiscal issues that have threatened to push whatever he proposes aside, at least for a while.

Gun control advocates also worry that opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress will be too great to overcome.

The NRA released an online video on Tuesday that called Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having armed Secret Service agents protect his daughters at school while not committing to installing armed guards in all schools.

January 11, 2013: Gun rights advocate and radio host Alex Jones unleashed his argument for gun ownership when he was being interviewed by CNN presenter Piers Morgan.

The NRA insists that the best way to prevent more mass shootings is to give more "good guys" guns.

The White House called the NRA video "repugnant and cowardly."

The public appears receptive to stronger federal action on guns, with majorities of Americans favouring a nationwide ban on military-style rapid-fire weapons, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. The poll also shows 84 per cent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows.

Three-quarters of Americans said they reacted to the Connecticut shooting with deep anger, while 54 per cent said they felt deeply ashamed it could happen in the United States.

The new poll also shows 51 per cent said they believed laws limiting gun ownership infringe on the public's constitutional right to possess and carry firearms.

White House officials signalled that Obama would seek to rally public support for the measures he puts forward.

Barack Obama was labelled an 'elitist' hypocrite in a recent NRA ad. (Image supplied)
Barack Obama was labelled an 'elitist' hypocrite in a recent NRA ad. (Image supplied)

That started with his Wednesday announcement, where he was joined by children who wrote to him after the Connecticut shooting asking for more gun controls.

White House officials, seeking to avoid setting the president up for failure, have emphasised that no single measure - even an assault weapons ban - would solve the scourge of gun violence.

But without such a ban, or other sweeping Congress-approved measures, it's unclear whether executive actions alone can make any noticeable difference.

The president called for banning assault weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds or fewer, and he proposed a federal statute to stop purchases of guns by buyers who are acting for others.

The president also called for a focus on universal background checks.

Some 40 per cent of gun sales take place without background checks, including those by private sellers at gun shows or over the internet, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The NRA criticised the bill, saying in a statement, "These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime."

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