Updated: Obama unveils $500 million gun violence package

Updated 1:54 p.m. Wednesday

ERICA WERNER,Associated Press

JULIE PACE,Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Braced for a fight, President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades, pressing a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

A month after that horrific massacre, Obama also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don't require the backing of lawmakers. The president's executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.

But the president, speaking at a White House ceremony, focused his attention on the divided Congress, saying only lawmakers could enact the most effective measures for preventing more mass shootings.

"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act," Obama said. "And Congress must act soon."

The president vowed to use "whatever weight this office holds" to press lawmakers into action on his $500 million plan. He is also calling for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk.

Even supportive lawmakers say the president's gun control proposals — most of which are opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association — face long odds on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker John Boehner's office was non-committal to the president's package of proposed legislation, but signaled no urgency to act. "House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. "And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said ahead of Obama's presentation that he didn't know whether an assault weapons ban could pass the Senate, but said there are some measures that can, such as improved background checks.

"There are some who say nothing will pass. I disagree with that," Leahy, D-Vt., told students at Georgetown University Law Center. "What I'm interested in is what we can get."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called Obama's package "thoughtful recommendations" and said the Senate would consider legislation addressing gun violence early this year.

"The tragedy at Sandy Hook was just the latest sad reminder that we are not doing enough to protect our citizens - especially our children - from gun violence and a culture of violence, and all options should be on the table moving forward," he said.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus dismissed Obama's measures as "an executive power grab."

"He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights," Priebus said of the president, "but took actions that disregard the Second Amendment and the legislative process."

Acknowledging the tough fight ahead, Obama said there will be pundits, politicians and special interest groups that will seek to "gin up fear" that the White House wants to take away the right to own a gun.

"Behind the scenes, they'll do everything they can to block any commonsense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever," he said. "The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different, that this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids."

The president was flanked by children who wrote him letters about gun violence in the weeks following the Newtown shooting. Families of those killed in the massacre, as well as survivors of the shooting, were also in the audience, along with law enforcement officers and congressional lawmakers.

"This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe," Obama said. "This is how we will be judged."

Seeking to expand the impetus for addressing gun violence beyond the Newtown shooting, the president said more than 900 Americans have been killed by guns in the month since the elementary school massacre.

"Every day we wait, the number will keep growing," he said.

The White House has signaled that Obama could launch a campaign to boost public support for his proposals. Nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire weapons and limits on gun violence depicted in video games, movies and TV shows, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

A lopsided 84 percent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows, the poll showed.

The president based his proposals on recommendations from an administration-wide task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. His plan marks the most comprehensive effort to address gun violence since Congress passed the 1994 ban on high-grade, military-style assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, and Obama wants lawmakers to renew and expand it.

Other measures Obama wants Congress to take up include limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks for all gun buyers in an attempt to close the so-called "gun-show loophole" that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and over the Internet without submitting to background checks.

Obama also intends to seek confirmation for B. Todd Jones, who has served as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since 2011.

The president's plan does little to address violent images in video games, movies and entertainment, beyond asking the CDC to study their impact on gun crimes. Some pro-gun lawmakers who are open to addressing stricter arms legislation have insisted they would do so only in tandem with recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment.

The president's long list of executive orders also include:

— Ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks and requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

— Ending limits that make it more difficult for the government to research gun violence, such as gathering data on guns that fall into criminal hands.

— Requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

— Giving schools flexibility to use federal grant money to improve school safety, such as by hiring school resource officers.

— Giving communities grants to institute programs to keep guns away from people who shouldn't have them.

_

Associated Press writers Ken Thomas and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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SaintClarence27 wrote on January 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I cannot possibly understand why any of the executive orders can be seen as controversial.

 

As for the legislation, I would like to see the particular definition of "military style assault weapons." That would obviously have to be in the definitions section of the bill. Other than that, even as a gun owner, I have no problem with any of it. I would still like to see more support for mental health programs throughout the country, though. Kind of weird to cut medicaid constantly with all of this going on.

welive wrote on January 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Well thank you Mr prez i feel this will not detour anyone from obtaining the guns they want to carryout the will of the person who really wants to cause harm to someone.Just lots of smoke in the air.I feel safer already.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 16, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Yeah, the "bad guys" will still buy them from the "good guys" who inflate the price that they paid for the guns legally.  Expect all types of conspiracy theorists, right wingers, gun nuts, and assorted nuts to offer any feeble excuse for no gun regulations what so ever.  "The Aurora theater killer could have strangled 70 people killing a dozen, and wounding the others if he really wanted to cause harm."  "The killer of the 20 children, and 6 adults could have stabbed them if he really wanted to cause harm."  Yeah; expect the absurd, and silly comments to come forward to defend no comprehensive background checks, and banning high capacity gun magazines.  The poor, persecuted NRA.....

bluegrass wrote on January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Ah, Sid.  I guess the dropping of the partisan tags and 'peace be with you' didn't last too long.  We're back to right wingers, gun nuts, assorted nuts, absurd, silly name calling again.  Those are new fond memories of so many days gone by.....  deep sigh.


Oh, by the way, remember a few weeks ago when I made the comment about the magic number of 10 with regard to the high capacity magazine definition?  Remember I said that someone new would come up with a new magic number of 9?  Then 8?  You assured me the debate was at 10.  Well, in New York they skipped straight to 7.  Yes, gun violence will plummet in the Empire State now that the the magic, lucky magazine number is 7.  With a veto proof majority in the IL House and Senate, with a governor frothing at the mouth to sign anything, and with Rahm Emmanuel not ever liking to loose a 'biggest legislation' contest, I wonder what the magic number in Illinois will be?


Incidently, I was nervous that the president would try to do something outside his power structure, but on the surface, if those truly are what they're looking at with regard to executive orders I don't see a problem with what's he's proposed.  The rest of the legislation will never pass the House or the Senate.  However, being the blindly arrogant, superiorly patriotic, absurd, silly, blowhard gun nut and assorted nut that I am, I will have to watch about 10 hours of Fox News tonight, then catch a little Rush Limbaugh and Hannity, some Glenn Beck, read the NRA response, check out Ted Nugent's website, check out my Alex Jones email blast report, and refer to my Koch Brothers Handbook before I can have any real opinion on the matter.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm

bluegrass;

The New York law of a 7 round magazine makes no sense unless someone has the manufacturing facility for a 7 round magazine, and will reap the profits from it.  I agree with you on that.  I do see a big difference between a 5 or 10 round magazine, and a 30 round magazine. 

The Congress will have to decide which is more important.  Either keeping an "A" rating from the NRA; or voting their conscience.

I do respect your not having a problem with the President's proposals.  Your not a gun nut.  You do for the most part use logic in your comments.  Your a Libertarian, not a extreme right winger.  We both believe that both parties are corrupt in maintaining their lock on the political system.  I understood your humor, and sarcasism regarding yourself.  I did not resist the opportunity to humorously jab you.  I did mean with all sincerity "peace be with you".  We agree to disagree at times?

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

It's not an answer to our national gun violence problems but it is a starting point. The starting point by which we redefine the ideas of what builds and what destroys our countries humanity. More importantly we have to understand that the notion that delusional people arming themselves to the point of being a one man apocalypse and making themselves feel relevant by slaughtering a classroom full of kids is abhorrent to our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. The absurd argument of "good guys with guns" didn't stop it from happening because there were plenty of good guys with guns and that only works if they are in the right place at the right time. We will need to deconstruct this problem to its framework and engage many resources to keep people from becoming that broken and full of despair. To teach them to know their own minds and feel as if they have their own hope so they don't have to symbolically steal the lives of the innocent as retribution for their delusional sense of entitlement thwarted. The global issue of violence in all its forms will take generations to fix.

The epidemic of gun violence is no less a tyrannical holocaust just because the shooters weren't wearing matching armbands.

“No longer at the mercy of the reptile brain, we can change ourselves. Think of the possibilities.” ~ Carl Sagan

Peace

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 16, 2013 at 3:01 pm

This starting point puts Congress in a bind.  Either senators, and representatives lose their "A" ranking from the NRA by enacting reasonable gun legislation; or they confirm the notion that they are bought by the NRA.  It places each politician in the spotlight.  It is not a test for one party.  It is a test for both parties.  Either they vote their conscience; or they vote for the money.

Joe American wrote on January 16, 2013 at 4:01 pm

After a lunchtime discussion today, the concensus was that we are all going to instruct our children, if asked by their doctors if there are guns in the house to respond as follows:

"Nunya"

dd1961 wrote on January 17, 2013 at 4:01 am

Heh, that was going to be my response.....and I own no guns(ok, except and old, old, old shotgun from a great grandfather that cannot fire).

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 17, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I am not preaching; but only offerring advice.  Get a FOID card if you do not already have one.  If you have a house fire, and the fire department shows up; they technically have to report guns found in the house.  Many grandmas have legal problems because grandpa is deceased; and they did not get rid of his gun, or get a FOID card.  I am not saying that it is right, or wrong; but do yourself a favor to avoid any legal hassle. 

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 18, 2013 at 9:01 am

I believe the doctors asking about firearms is part of the general questionnaire regarding abuse. If so, the questions are valid.

 

rsp wrote on January 21, 2013 at 2:01 am

Too many kids are shot by finding guns and playing with them. Parents think the kids don't know or don't touch them. Or they do it at a friend's house. They won't tell a parent because they'll get in trouble but they'll be more likely to tell the doctor. 

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 21, 2013 at 11:01 am

Seriously, why does ANYONE who isn't crazy think that the United States Government is employing DOCTORS to take away guns?

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 22, 2013 at 12:01 am

BTW Threats of school violence right here in your home town C-U happen all the time. They are just handled internally and don't get reported in the press. Like when a kid brought a handful of bullets in his pocket to school or a knife in his back pack after he made some not so veiled threats to other kids about "getting even" in retribution for months of bullying or a mentally challenged child who declares he will shoot up his school in C-U but is just unfortunately mimicking what he has heard on the news and didn't have the capacity to understand that remark much less carry it out.

Guess what. If the police come to your home investigating these types of related incidents you won't be saying "Nunya". You'll be explaining how you are not doing your job as a parent to a whole chain of people and none of them will be doctors.

firegod6 wrote on January 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm

As far as the fire department coming to a house fire and having to report guns in the house, that isnt true. The only time we need to report any guns is if the owner isnt home to secure them before we leave the property. Other than that, we dont report on anything that is legal to own. Now if we find drugs, thats a different story and is reported.

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 23, 2013 at 8:01 am

I get the impression that most of the scare stories like this are made up.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

I made my comment on the fire dept. reporting on guns in the home based on the grandmother in southern Illinois being reported a few years ago.  Maybe; it depends on each fire department's view, or the law has been changed.  Personally; I do not care if someone has guns in their home, or not.  I do care when they are carrying them around me.  I trust myself, and a few others; but the rest of the population is another thing.