WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced a $500 million package of executive actions and legislative proposals aimed at reducing gun violence a month after a mass shooting in Connecticut killed 20 elementary school children.
The package includes a call on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazine and it would close loopholes in the gun sale background check system.
Obama outlined the package of proposals, the result of a month of meetings lead by Vice President Joe Biden, during a press conference at the White House attended by several members of Congress, family members of shooting victims and some children who wrote letters to the president following the Newtown shooting last month, Obama
“The type of assault weapon used in Aurora, for example, when combined with high-capacity magazine is designed to do one thing — to pump out as many bullets as possible,” Obama said, referencing the July 20 shooting at the Century 16 movie theater that left 12 dead and 58 injured.
“The weapons of war have no place in a movie theater.”
Obama also is signing 23 executive actions—which require no congressional approval—including several aimed at improving access to data for background checks. A presidential memorandum will instruct the Centers for Disease Control to research causes and prevention of gun violence.
Wednesday’s announcement reflects the administration’s decision to seize on public outrage following the Newtown, Conn. shooting last month in which a gunman used an AR-15 to kill 20 first-graders in their classroom.
The White House knows getting these proposals through a divided Congress will be incredibly difficult; but the president believes the public opinion on gun laws is shifting and that the post-Newtown moment is ripe for action.
“This will be difficult,” Obama said. “There will be lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical assault on liberty. And behind the scense they’ll do everything they can to block any common sense reform and make sure we do nothing whatsoever.”
Already, the National Rifle Association is airing a television ad attacking the president and his plan, calling Obama an “elitist hypocrite” for allowing armed Secret Service security for his daughters while not embracing the gun group’s proposal for armed security in every school.
Just prior to the president’s press conference Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney blasted the ad as “repugnant and cowardly.”
Obama himself closed his press conference by signing the 23 executive orders after urging the public to pressure their elected officials to support his plan.
“I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe,” Obama said. “But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it. We’re going to need people in those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and demand this.”
Colorado Congressman Ed Perlmutter, D-Golden, is a co-sponsor of the assault weapons ban and attended the announcement at the White House.
“I know from listening to my constituents there are sensible solutions most Americans support like addressing mental health issues, enacting universal criminal background checks on any gun purchase, keeping military-style assault weapons off the streets and limiting high capacity assault magazines,” Perlmutter said. “These measure should be brought to a vote in Congress with bipartisan support now, and not let gun lobbyists blocks these solutions.”
Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, is a co-sponsor of the ban on high-capacity magazines and also attended Wednesday’s press conference, as did Majorie Sloan, the mayor of Golden.
Sen. Mark Udall also issued a statement praising the president’s plan as “exactly the type of multi-faceted approach we need to drive the debate on how to prevent future tragedies.
“We need comprehensive solutions that protect our children, prevent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns, and ensure responsible gun ownership consistent with the Second Amendment.”
Udall, who faces reelection in 2014, is part of a 55-member Democratic majority in the Senate, but Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, is nervous about pushing ahead with gun legislation that could hurt the political fortunes of Udall and other Democrats — especially if there’s no real chance of passage in the Republican-controlled House.