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Obama to unveil gun control plan in wake of school massacre

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 16 Jan 2013 15:33 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Proposals culled from vice president's task force

* Assault weapons ban may be tough sell to Congress

* New York passes tough gun law

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will propose a new assault weapons ban and stricter background checks for gun buyers on Wednesday in a sweeping package of proposals to curb gun violence after the killing of 20 children and six adults in a Connecticut school last month.

Obama's agenda - shaping up as the most ambitious gun-control push in decades - will include executive and legislative action, with the latter sure to face an uphill battle in Congress where appetite for reinstating an assault weapons ban is low.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who led a task force that made recommendations on the issue, will present the measures at a White House event attended by children from around the country who wrote letters to the president about gun violence and school safety.

Obama, who has called the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the worst day of his presidency, said on Monday he would study the panel's ideas and move forward "vigorously" on those that he endorsed, including some actions he could take without congressional approval.

The announcement sets up a direct confrontation with the powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby, which is launching an advertising campaign against gun control and deploying its representatives in force on Capitol Hill.

The NRA, which says it has about 4 million members, took aim at Obama in a stinging TV ad, accusing him of being "just another elitist hypocrite" for accepting Secret Service protection for his two daughters but turning down the lobby group's proposal to put armed guards in all schools.

A White House official said Obama had not endorsed all of the ideas put forward by Biden's team but declined to lay out specifics on what would be announced.

"The president has made clear that he intends to take a comprehensive approach," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.

The president will ask Congress for a renewed prohibition on assault weapons sales that expired in 2004, a measure to ban high-capacity ammunition clips and the closing of loopholes in the background check system, Carney said.

The announcement, which comes the day after New York State lawmakers approved one of the toughest gun control bills in the United States and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law, is set for 11:55 a.m. EST.

OBAMA'S FIRST MAJOR GUN EFFORT

Obama, until now, has done little to rein in America's gun culture. But just days before his second inauguration, he appears determined to champion gun control with a concerted drive for tighter laws and other steps.

But gun restrictions are a divisive issue in the United States, which constitutionally protects a citizen's right to bear arms.

Biden delivered his recommendations to Obama after a series of meetings with representatives from the weapons and entertainment industries. The president requested the recommendations after the Newtown shootings, which were carried out by a 20-year-old man who later killed himself.

The proposals are likely to touch on mental health and could address violence portrayed in video games.

Obama has signaled his plan would include elements that did not require congressional approval. The president could take action to ban certain gun imports and bolster oversight of gun dealers.

The proposals are likely to draw ire from the NRA, an influential lobbying group that is traditionally associated with Republicans. The NRA proposed having armed officials in schools throughout the country and has said the media and violent video games shared blame for the Newtown massacre, the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

"There is common ground" with the White House, NRA President David Keene said on the PBS Newshour on Tuesday. "It is not on banning rifles that we don't think will make any difference and it is not on setting up a national gun registry."

"We have for 20 years been asking that those people who have been adjudicated to be mentally, potentially violent be put on the list of people who are not allowed to buy firearms."

The NRA announced this week that it would produce a nightly one-hour cable talk show called "Cam & Company," which will be hosted by Cam Edwards, a gun advocate. The NRA also produces "Guns and Gold," in which values are set on old guns, and "3 Gun Nation," a shooting competition program.

Greg Valliere of the Potomac Research Group, a private firm that tracks Washington for institutional investors, wrote to clients on Wednesday: "Sweeping gun control legislation has no chance - none - of enactment; it won't even be considered by the House, and the Senate is lukewarm."

"Modest proposals, perhaps dealing with mental health and school safety, might have a chance," he wrote.

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