Obama seeks January gun law
US president Barack Obama has promised to deliver proposals for tightening gun laws and curbing violence by next month, declaring the time for action was overdue after the massacre of children at a Connecticut primary school.
Even before the proposals are drafted, the US president pressed politicians to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to skirt background checks and restrict high-capacity ammunition clips.
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” Mr Obama said in his most detailed comments on guns since last Friday’s killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. “The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence.”
Gun control measures have faced fierce resistance in Congress for years but that may be changing now because of last week’s violence.
Since then, Mr Obama has signalled for the first time in his presidency that he is willing to spend political capital on the issue and some prominent gun-rights advocates in Congress - Democrats and Republicans alike - have expressed willingness to consider new measures.
Still, given the long history of opposition to tighter gun laws, there is no certainty the legislation Mr Obama backed yesterday or the proposals he will send to Congress next month will become law.
Many Americans consider arms ownership a cherished freedom and have been outspoken in their opposition to tighter gun laws.
The Arizona Citizens Defence League, a group that lobbies for pro-gun state legislation, said guns should be allowed in Arizona schools to provide protection against shootings such as the one in Connecticut.
Some conservative politicians elsewhere in the country have echoed that view.
Mr Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time gun control advocate, with overseeing the administration-wide process to create those proposals. Beyond firearms’ restrictions, officials will also look for ways to increase mental health resources and consider steps to keep society from glamourising guns and violence.
Mr Biden will start his discussions today when he meets law enforcement officers from around the country.
Mr Obama’s January deadline underscores the desire among White House officials to respond swiftly to the Newtown shooting. Obama aides worry that as the shock of the shooting fades, so too, will the prospects that pro-gun politicians will work with the White House to tighten restrictions.
“I would hope that our memories aren’t so short that what we saw in Newtown isn’t lingering with us, that we don’t remain passionate about it only a month later,” the president said.
In Newtown, mourners overlapped at back-to-back funerals that started on Monday and will continue all week. A seven-year-old boy who had dreamed of being a firefighter and a heroic first-grade teacher who died while trying to shield students from the carnage were among latest victims laid to rest.
And in what has become a dark rite of passage in America, survivors of a 2005 school shooting that killed 10, including the gunman, on an Indian reservation in Minnesota travelled to Connecticut to offer comfort to the community.