Obama to address gun controls

Tue, Jan 15, 2013, 00:00

President Barack Obama will reveal the details of how the US will address gun violence tomorrow, the White House has said.

The news came as New York’s lawmakers agreed to pass the toughest gun control law in the nation and dared other states to do the same.

The Obama administration has been moving quickly on the issue before shock fades over last month’s school shooting in Connecticut, which Mr Obama has called the worst day of his presidency.

The White House said Mr Obama would appear tomorrow with children who wrote letters to him after the shooting - a clear attempt to appeal to the public as opposition grows among pro-gun groups and Americans who fear their weapons will be taken away. The US has the highest rate of gun ownership of any country in the world.

A total of 26 people, including 20 children, were shot dead at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown in December last year.

Mr Obama has acknowledged a tough fight ahead in a deeply divided Congress, whose support would be needed to pass the most sweeping changes under consideration, including a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Connecticut shooting and background checks for anyone seeking to purchase a gun. The gun in last month’s shooting was legally purchased.

The president has said lawmakers will have to “examine their own conscience”. However, the gun issue will have to compete for congress time in coming weeks, with several looming fiscal issues, and Republican leaders have said action on guns will have to wait.

Mr Obama can use his executive powers to make some changes without the need for congress approval. But the focus on stricter gun controls has some pro-gun groups on the defensive.

The head of a weapons industry group, which is based in the town where the Connecticut shootings occurred, said today that law-abiding gun owners did not cause the gunman to attack, and neither did the industry.

National Shooting Sports Foundation chief Steve Sanetti called weapons manufacturers, sellers and owners “misunderstood” in comments prepared for his speech on the state of the industry.

“You didn’t cause the monstrous crime in Newtown, and neither did we,” Mr Sanetti said.

The most contentious elements of the Obama administration’s plans also face intense opposition from the influential National Rifle Association, which enjoys strong support from Republicans as well as several Democrats and is known to punish politicians who stray from its point of view.

The assault weapons ban, which Mr Obama has long supported, is expected to face the toughest opposition in congress, which passed a 10-year ban on the high-grade, military-style weapons in 1994.

Supporters did not have the votes to renew it once it expired.

States and cities have been moving against gun violence as well. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was poised to sign into the law the most restrictive gun law in the nation.

“This is a scourge on society,” Mr Cuomo said on Monday. “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life’?”

The New York bill had bi-partisan support, with the leader of the Republican-held state Senate saying it does not infringe on the constitution’s Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right of citizen to bear arms.

The New York measure calls for a tougher assault weapons ban and restrictions on ammunition and the sale of guns.

It also would create a more powerful tool to require the reporting of mentally ill people who say they intend to use a gun illegally, and it would address the unsafe storage of guns.

AP

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