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Americas

Obama unveils proposals for tougher gun laws

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-17

US President Barack Obama outlined a series of proposals aimed at curbing gun violence on Wednesday, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as required universal background checks.

US President Barack Obama unveiled a series of proposals aimed at toughening gun laws on Wednesday, including a ban on military-style assault weapons, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines as well as mandatory universal background checks.

Obama said he planned to introduce new legislation by next week and had signed 23 executive actions as part of a $500 million programme geared toward reducing gun violence.

The Obama administration made gun control a top priority after a string of tragic shootings – including one last month at a Connecticut elementary school that claimed the lives of 20 young children – left the country in shock.

Obama outlines proposals on gun control

"We can't put this off any longer," Obama said, calling on the government to take swift action on gun control. “To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act and Congress must act soon.”

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 offense against the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the 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, defense, guns were often stored in community areas and rifles fired one shot at a time.

White House officials, seeking to avoid setting Obama 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.

Measures to reduce gun violence

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.

Obama also called for a focus on universal background checks. Some 40 percent 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.

Obama went on to say he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the root causes of gun violence, including any relationship to video games and media images.

The president’s framework is based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, who led a wide-ranging task force on gun violence.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful gun lobby in the US, issued a statement after Obama’s speech criticising his proposals as a direct attack on firearms.

“We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset - our children,” the NRA said. “Attacking firearms and ignoring children is 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.”

Battle ahead in Congress

In Washington, it is unclear how much political capital Obama will use in pressing for congressional action.

The White House and Congress will soon be consumed by three looming fiscal deadlines, each of which is expected to be contentious. And the president has also pledged to tackle comprehensive immigration reform early this year, another effort that will require Republicans’ support.

The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has warned the White House that it will be at least three months before the chamber considers gun legislation. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has said immigration, not gun control, is at the top of his priority list after the fiscal fights.
 

Date created : 2013-01-16

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