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Obama Asks Congress for Sweeping New Gun Laws

President Obama said the laws, including universal background checks and a renewed ban on assault rifles, would lead to "fewer atrocities like the one that happened in Newtown."

 

Alongside Vice President Joe Biden and a group of children who had written in support, President Barack Obama signed a proposal to Congress Wednesday to strengthen United States gun laws, including universal background checks, limiting the number of bullets in a clip, and renewing a ban on military-grade assault rifles. 

"If America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown," Obama said.

He listed some specific measures, including a 10-round limit on magazines for firearms, and asked congress to confirm Todd Jones to fill the long-dormant role of chief for the Bureau of Alchol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) — and briefly mentioned other measures, including helping schools hire more resource offices and making sure mental health professionals have the tools they need. He suggested Congress should fund research into the link between gun violence and violent video games.

Assault rifle bans and universal background checks made up the core of his proposal.

"The type of assault rifle used in [the movie theater shooting in Aurora] has one purpose ... to pump out as many rounds as possible," he said. "Weapons designed for the theatre of war have no place in a movie theater."

The law already requires gun owners to run background checks, but federal authorities have struggled to enforce that law.

Obama said he believes Americans are ready, and that he has majority support — including 70% of the National Rifle Association, according to one poll — but that lobbyists and pundits have held laws back.

"There will be lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty," he said. "Not because that's true, but because they want to generate fear, revenues or higher ratings for themselves. The only way we'll be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different."

Last month Obama asked Biden to come up with "concrete steps" to prevent mass shootings and the broader epidemic of gun violence. Biden's task force met with some Sandy Hook parents, including those of who was one of 20 students and six educators killed at the elementary school in the Dec. 14 shooting.

Other parents of children lost in the shooting have actively petitioned the White House to act.

"We recognize that no single law or reform will prevent targeted school shootings," said the parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner in a letter provided to the Hartford Courant. "However, by enacting a wide range of reforms, federal, state and local governments can make our children much safer in schools."

Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe, one of the first on the scene of the shooting, also asked the President to consider new legislation -- specifically, limiting access to the kind of heavy weaponry used by the shooter.

"We never like to think we're outgunned in any situation we're dealing with," he said in an interview with NBC News.

Sandy Hook parents and other Newtown community members have asked for changes in attitudes at the community level across the United States. The advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise launched a nationwide campaign Monday to enact "positive change" to prevent future shootings. While they have taken no official position on gun control — and Sandy Hook Promise representatives were not immediately available for comment on Obama's speech — members have listed policy change as one possible avenue.

“There are steps government can take. There are laws Congress can make,” said co-founder Tom Bittman Monday. "But we have to fundamentally change our approach."

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