News / USA

Obama Challenges Congress to 'Do the Right Thing' on Gun Control

President Barack Obama talks with 11-year-old letter writer Julia Stokes (2nd R in blue dress) as he signs executive orders on gun violence during an event at the White House, January 16, 2013.
President Barack Obama talks with 11-year-old letter writer Julia Stokes (2nd R in blue dress) as he signs executive orders on gun violence during an event at the White House, January 16, 2013.
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama is taking aim at gun violence with a set of proposals expected to ignite a political fight with pro-gun groups and their supporters.

Obama called for lawmakers to quickly pass several proposals, saying keeping children safe is "our first task as a society."

"Let us do the right thing.  Let us do the right thing for them and for this country that we love so much," he said.

Obama was joined Wednesday by school children who wrote to him about gun violence following the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that killed 20 children and six teachers. 

He has called that day the worst of his presidency and warned that what lawmakers do, or fail to do, will resonate with future generations.

"This is how we will be judged and their voices [children's voices] should compel us to change," said the president.

 Some of Obama's 23 Executive Actions on Gun Violence

  • Require federal agencies to make data available to the federal background check system
  • Review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun
  • Launch national safe and responsible gun owner campaign
  • Provide law enforcement, first responders and school officials with training for active shooter situations
  • Clarify the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking patients about guns
  • Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education
Obama's proposals include banning assault-style weapons, universal background checks for gun sales, and boosting mental health services.  The president also signed 23 executive orders to help give law enforcement and mental health professionals more tools in combating gun violence.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio voiced strong concerns about Obama's proposals, issuing a statement Wednesday saying "Nothing the President is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook [in Newtown]."  Rubio also pledged to "oppose the president’s attempts to undermine Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.”

The National Rifle Association has been critical of gun-control efforts, saying "gun-control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime." 

On Tuesday, the largest U.S. gun-rights lobbying group launched an ad campaign to preemptively attack the president's plan.  The ad calls Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing armed security guards to protect his school-aged daughters, while rejecting a proposal for armed guards in every school.

The White House has called the NRA ad "repugnant and cowardly.''  And during Wednesday's news conference, Vice President Joe Biden said such thinking is out-of-date.

"The world has changed and it is demanding action," he said.

After the president's announcement, supporters expressed hope there would finally be some movement to crack down on gun violence.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said it appears many Americans have had enough.

"This is certainly the most hopeful moment on this issue in well over a decade.  And a lot of it is obviously because of the public outrage and sympathy," he said.

A number of new polls shows many Americans appear to be more receptive to stronger government restrictions on guns.

An Associated Press-GfK poll found a majority of Americans favor a ban on military-style rapid-fire weapons and 84 percent want to see a nationwide standard for background checks for anyone wanting to buy a gun.

Another poll released this week by the Pew Research Center found 55 percent of Americans favor bans on assault-style weapons while 85 percent want stronger background checks for gun buyers. 

Tuesday, New York state became the first in the nation to impose tougher gun-control measures in the aftermath of the Newtown school shootings. The law expands the state's ban on assault-style weapons and requires background checks for anyone seeking to buy ammunition.  It also puts limits on ammunition capacity and includes provisions intended to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

The White House gun proposal fact sheet:

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Doug from: Florida
January 17, 2013 4:30 PM
I believe there's a valid question as to President Obama's moral authority to use children as the reason to make recommendations on gun acquisition and ownership. Over 18,000 humans were terminated in late term (greater than 21 weeks) abortions last year. This is a supported choice by the President. So the concept of the Presidential outrage over the senseless and tragic death seems more opportunistic than sincere.

by: Anonymous
January 16, 2013 11:17 AM
Our immediate jump to regulate guns may be justified, yet did we miss something obvious? Seems we’re quick to turn a blind eye to many times that many children dying every year in alcohol related vehicular deaths? Where's the outrage and legislative fire for regulating how much alcohol you can possess? Are those children’s deaths less tragic and acceptable loss year after year simply because we won’t infringe on our “right” to imbibe alcohol? How many gun crimes have alcohol involved?
Seems we jump to fix things that are politically advantageous. The president said “ he’d do anything to save even one life”. Well?
Have we grown numb and totally accepting our children dying year after year? We bath our children in TV, video and movie violence then have the audacity to wonder why they turn into killers. Why are the highest gun related crimes in cities with the most stringent gun laws and legal alcohol? Could the problem be something deeper we don’t wish to confront in ourselves?
In Response

by: Jonathan Huang from: canada
January 16, 2013 1:01 PM
@ anonymous, who told you there is no control of drink and drive? Who told you there is not a minimum legal age for alcohol consumption? Yet there were still many deaths caused by drink and drive, which means we have to tighten the regulation not the opposite.
controlling violent movies, TVs and games is also important. lets do it one step at a time, ok?

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