White House readies gun control plan
The White House revealed the first steps of a gun-control plan today as the United States grieved for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in another wave of funerals.
President Barack Obama's initiative addressed national outrage over the shootings in Connecticut, which prompted longtime gun-rights supporters to reconsider their positions and a major private equity to put its gunmaking business up for sale.
The funerals scheduled for today included those of four children, a teacher and the principal of the school stormed by 20-year-old gunman Adam Lanza on Friday. After killing his mother at home, Lanza drove to the school and used a semi-automatic assault rifle to kill 20 children and six women.
Mr Obama appointed vice president Joe Biden to lead an effort to craft policies to reduce gun violence. Specific steps Mr Biden recommends will be unveiled in Mr Obama's State of the Union address, which is typically given towards the end of January, but Mr Obama indicated some priorities.
"We're going to need making access to mental health at least as easy as access to a gun," Mr Obama told reporters.
He said he hoped the powerful gun-industry lobby, the National Rifle Association, would reflect on the tragedy as it anticipates Mr Biden's recommendations.
"The vast majority of responsible law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war," Mr Obama said.
Mr Biden's leadership of the task force was applauded by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a long-time gun control advocate, who urged immediate steps such as appointing a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, a federal crackdown on illegal gun purchases, and the lifting a federal gag order that keeps the public in the dark about gun traffickers.
"The task force must move quickly with its work, as 34 Americans will be murdered with guns every day that passes without common sense reforms to our laws," Mr Bloomberg said in a statement.
The massacre of so many children in Connecticut, all of whom were just six or seven years old, shocked the United States and the world and renewed debate over gun control in a nation where the right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution and fiercely defended by many.
Around the globe, newspaper editorials from the Philippines to South Africa urged US gun-control efforts and said they were long overdue.
"It takes no great deductive genius to understand the link: a violent individual with a gun will be more able to kill, and can kill more people, than a violent individual without a gun. Elsewhere in the world, tighter gun laws have been shown to save lives," said an editorial in the Indian newspaper, The Hindu.