U.S. President Barack Obama is taking aim at gun violence with a comprehensive set of proposals expected to ignite a political fight with pro-gun groups and their supporters.
Obama called keeping children safe "our first task as a society," adding that if even one life can be saved by reducing gun violence, it is the country's obligation to try.
The proposals include a ban on assault-style weapons, a universal background background checks for gun sales, and boosting mental health services. The president also said he would sign 23 executive orders to help give law enforcement and mental health professionals more tools in combatting gun violence.
Obama launched his gun control initiative surrounded by school children who wrote to him about gun violence following the December 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that killed 20 young children and six teachers. Obama has called the day the worst of his presidency. Families of the victims were also present.
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 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."
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.
The president's plan is based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, who was appointed to study the issue and has met with various groups since last month's school shooting in Newtown.
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 New York 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.
Some of Obama's 23 Executive Actions to Address 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
Article by VOA News