President Barack Obama with Vice President Joe Biden at his side Wednesday unveiled a sweeping proposal to reduce gun violence in America. The president was joined by some school children who wrote letters of sympathy after the Sandy Hook school tragedy in December.Cable networks covered the announcement live.
"While reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one," the president said.
Obama and Biden released their proposal at the same time the NRA began running TV ads mocking the president for the Secret Service protection afforded to his daughters.
White House press secretary Jay Carney blasted the NRA for the ad calling it “repugnant” and “cowardly.” Laws passed by Congress mandate Secret Service coverage for all presidents’ family members. Obama did not institute that for his daughters.
President Obama's Gun Control Proposal
The package Obama and Biden unveiled today called for background checks for every gun buyer in America, a ban on assault weapons, a ban on ammunition clips that hold more than 10 bullets, and a federal firearm trafficking law. This is the most sweeping effort to curb deadly gun violence since 1968 when Lyndon Johnson tried after the assassinations of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.
"Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater," Obama said. “A majority of Americans agree with us on this."
The president also asked Congress to pass a law against so-called “straw purchasing” of guns, toughen gun trafficking laws, and authorize new funding for gun violence research, mental health efforts. He called for a program that would place mental health counselors and police officers in schools. These were suggestions given to Vice President Biden’s commission.
Acknowledging resistance in Congress President Obama said "the only way we can change is if the American people demand it," encouraging "voices in those areas and those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong" to lobby their representatives.
Earlier this week the parents of the murdered children at Sandy Hook Elementary rallied to demand that their voices be heard for laws to prevent this kind of violence—including bans on assault weapons and high capacity clips.
The president also said he would take executive actions that do not need Congressional approval to affect some change. The measures include ordering the Centers for Disease control to resume research into gun violence despite a congressional ban preventing the agency from producing work that would advocate or promote gun control. Obama is also asking Congress for $10 million toward those research efforts.
What is not included in the president’s proposals are any restrictions on video games or violent films, which the NRA and others have argued are a contributing factor. The White House did designate some federal dollars for the study of violence in media.
The president’s proposals will face very tough sledding in Congress. Most Republicans are against any tweak to guns laws let alone major change. Some Democrats will give him grief as well.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) suggested this week that he won't bring an assault weapons ban to the floor. Unless he relents, that will be the end of that part of the package.
A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Hill that the appropriate committees in the House would review the president's recommendations, and that the Speaker's office would "take a look at" legislation that came from the Senate indicating his Republican body would not initiate anything on their own.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, however, his committee would begin holding hearings on gun proposals by Jan. 30. Leahy singled out background checks, mental health policies and anti-trafficking measures as areas of particular interest in an apparent nod to Harry Reid’s line in the sand on assault weapons.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said last week that Congress doesn't have the time to take on a controversial issue like gun reform. He said Congress was busy “cutting spending” over the next three months. This shows the lack of importance many Republicans seem to place on the lives of those killed every day by gun violence.
A Republican Congressman has already promised impeach President Obama over this issue. Texas Republican Rep. Steve Stockman threatened Monday afternoon that he would file articles of impeachment against President Barack Obama if he institutes gun control measures with an executive order, which the president announced he would today.
Now the debate begins.
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