Obama unveils $500 million gun violence package
President Barack Obama is announcing 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 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.
The president is seeking rules to ensure that law enforcement conducts background checks before returning seized firearms.
The executive actions are part of an overarching package assembled by a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden.
In addition, Obama will nominate Todd Jones as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Jones currently is the acting director of the agency.
Statement from the National Rifle Association:
Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.
The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America's most valuable asset – our children.
Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.
The president decided to fight for a major tightening of gun laws. Recommended by the Biden Task Force, the Obama kick-off is Wednesday.
"He believes we need to act now," said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
In advance of today's event, the National Rifle Association released an online video calling Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having armed secret Service agents protect his daughters at school while not committing to installing armed guards in all schools.
The Obama plan would ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and begin universal background checks, ending the exemptions for sales at gun shows and online.
The President acknowledged that many oppose those changes.
"Will all of them get through this Congress? I don't know," Obama said.
But the NRA has lost support since the Newtown, Conn. school shooting, upside down in approval in Tuesday's Washington Post/ABC News poll. Fifty-eight percent of people approve of an assault weapons ban.
There's a new Associated Press-GfK poll that indicates nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the shootings in Connecticut. Majorities of those surveyed favor a nationwide bank on military-style, rapid-fire weapons, and limits on gun violence depicted in video games, movies and TV shows.
Democrats are encouraged.
"Wake up and understand the American people are fed up!" said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York)
Some Republicans will fight any new gun ban.
"Let's talk about mental health issues. Let's talk about enforcement of current law, gun law. Let's talk about violence glorified by Hollywood," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas).
While Congress battles, the President also plans executive action, ordering a crackdown on gun buyers who lie on background checks and improving the databases those checks depend upon.
That might have prevented the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007 that left 32 dead. Seung Hui-Cho's mental health history did not show up when he bought his handgun.
The president plans to take some action that doesn't need congressional approval, like boosting the availability of mental health services and directing the federal government to conduct more research on gun use and crimes.
Some from Virginia joined a protest near Newtown, demanding Walmart stops selling assault weapons.
"Do we really want military-grade people killers on the shelf next to strollers?" said Lori Haas, Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence.
New York's state assembly Tuesday was saying "no," passing tougher gun laws like the Obama proposals.
The fight could get nasty. One new House Republican claims he'll push to have President Obama impeached.