President unveils sweeping plan to curb gun violence
WASHINGTON (ABC News) - Flanked by four children from across the country, President Obama Wednesday unveiled a sweeping plan to curb gun violence in America through an extensive package of legislation and executive actions not seen since the 1960s.
Obama asked Congress to implement mandatory background checks for all gun purchases, not just from licensed dealers; reinstate a ban on some assault-style weapons; ban high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds; and crackdown on illicit weapon trafficking.
The president's proposal also includes new initiatives for school safety, including a call for more federal aid to states for hiring so-called school resource officers, counselors and psychologists, and improved access to mental health care.
Obama signed 23 executive actions on gun violence -- policy directives not needing congressional approval. Among them was a directive to federal agencies to beef up the national criminal background check system and a memorandum lifting a freeze on gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control.
The announcement came one month after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., left 26 dead, including 20 children. Obama called it the worst moment of his presidency and promised "meaningful action" in response.
The proposals were the work of an Obama-appointed task force, led by Vice President Joe Biden, that held 22 meetings on gun violence over the past three weeks. The group received input from more than 220 organizations and dozens of elected officials, a senior administration official said.
The task force recommendations were presented to Obama on Monday.
Obama Wednesday also nominated a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which regulates gun sales and leads enforcement of federal gun laws. The agency has been without a confirmed director for six years. Obama appointed acting director Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, to the post, if the Senate confirms him.
The administration's plan also calls for aid to states for the hiring of more so-called school resource officers, counselors and psychologists. Obama also directed the Department of Education to ensure all schools have improved emergency response plans.
The proposals are already being met with stiff opposition from gun-rights advocates, led by the National Rifle Association, which overnight released a scathing ad attacking the president as an "elitist hypocrite."
"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" says the narrator of the NRA ad. "Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?"
Obama has questioned the value of placing more armed guards at schools around the country, though his proposal does call for placement of more police officers at public schools. The NRA opposes most of the other gun restrictions Obama has proposed.
Convincing Congress to vote for gun control measures will also be a tough task, with many Democrats expressing skepticism that new restrictions on gun sales can be effective, much less pass.
"Is [the assault weapons ban] something that can pass the Senate? Maybe. Is it something that can pass the Senate? I doubt it," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat and gun owner, told a Las Vegas TV station on Friday. "So I think there are things that we know we can do."