WASHINGTON (January 16, 2013)--President Barack Obama Wednesday announced a $500 million package of executive actions and legislative proposals aimed at reducing gun violence a month after the shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 elementary school children.
The package includes a call on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and to require universal background checks for all gun purchases.
Mr. Obama also signed 23 executive actions, which require no congressional approval, including several aimed at improving access to data for background checks.
The package is the product of a series of meetings between Vice President Joe Biden and representatives of a variety of groups including the National Rifle Association, but Gov. Rick Perry, in a statement issued soon after the announcement, said, “The Vice President’s committee was appointed in response to the tragedy at Newtown, but very few of his recommendations have anything to do with what happened there.”
“Guns require a finger to pull the trigger,” Perry said.
“The sad young man who did that in Newtown was clearly haunted by demons and no gun law could have saved the children in Sandy Hook Elementary from his terror.”
Perry said he’s disgusted by “the piling on by the political left, and their cohorts in the media, to use the massacre of little children to advance a pre-existing political agenda that would not have saved those children,” and said the executive power of the president cannot and will not abridge the Second Amendment.
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, also said little proposed by the president could have prevented the Newtown shooting.
“Americans are united in looking for real bipartisan solutions to the kind of mass shootings that we have suffered at Sandy Hook Elementary, Aurora, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, and Columbine,” he said.
“Instead we have the President accusing everyone who disagrees with his specific ideas to be pawns of lobbyists, who don’t care whether children are murdered. The only concrete reforms he proposes that could have prevented the Sandy Hook shootings is to provide school security officers at federal expense, which is in essence the NRA plan which he previously opposed, along with vague suggestions on increased firearms security measures,” he said.
The National Rifle Association issued a brief statement Wednesday in which it said it looks forward to working with Congress “to find real solutions to protecting…our children.”
“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,” the NRA said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, said the president’s proposals address “gun violence prevention and mental health access in a comprehensive way.”
“The Academy agrees with the President that to prevent future incidents like the shooting in Newtown there must be stronger gun laws, comprehensive access to mental health care, and no restrictions on federal gun violence research and prevention efforts,” said Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, the president of the AAP.
“President Obama’s proposals reflect the AAP’s recommendations for specific measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including a strong, effective assault weapon ban; mandatory background checks on all firearm purchases; and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines,” he said.
The president is asking Congress to pass legislation requiring background checks for all gun sales including those at gun shows and by private sellers, allowing exceptions for certain transfers among family members and temporary transfers for hunting.
He also wants Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons that expired in 2004, renew a 10-round limit on the size of ammunition magazines, and prohibit the manufacture, import, possession or transfer or armor-piercing bullets.
He also called for new laws with tough penalties for those who buy guns, and then turn around and sell them to criminals.
In addition, Mr. Obama said Wednesday he will nominate Todd Jones as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been without a director for six years.
Jones currently serves as the acting director of the agency.
Mr. Obama called on Congress to act quickly to confirm the nomination.
“This is the land of the free, and it always will be,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday.
“As Americans, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we've also long recognized, as our Founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities,” he said.
“Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of, and by, and for the people. We are responsible for each other.”
The president’s legislative proposals may run into a roadblock on Capitol Hill, where Republicans control the House and Democrats lack a supermajority in the Senate.
But there appears to be popular support for the measures.
A new Associated Press-GfK poll found that nearly six in 10 Americans favor stricter gun laws and that a majority favors a ban on military-style rapid-fire weapons and limits on the depiction of gun violence in video games, movies and TV programs.
The poll found that 84 percent want background checks for those buying weapons at gun shows.
Meanwhile Wednesday, in an open letter posted on its website, the ATF encouraged licensed gun dealers to help private sellers run federal background checks.
The letter, posted just hours after the president’s announcement, says federally licensed dealers can “enhance public safety and assist law enforcement” by facilitating private sales and running the background checks on the prospective buyers.