Flanked by children, Obama proposes sweeping gun-control laws

Washington, Jan 17 (IANS) A month after the massacre of innocents in an elementary school sent shock waves through the US, President Barack Obama has unveiled the most sweeping gun control proposals in two decades.

Flanked by children who wrote him letters after December's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut which left 20 children and six teachers dead, he Wednesday signed 23 executive actions, which do not require congressional approval.

These actions are aimed at strengthening existing gun laws and take related steps on mental health and school safety.

The Democratic president also urged the Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, to restrict ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds, and to expand background checks to anyone buying a gun.

But Obama acknowledged his legislative push would encounter stiff opposition in Congress. "This will be difficult," he said.

"There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty -- not because that's true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves.

"And behind the scenes, they'll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.

While some of the steps he proposed are given little chance of winning congressional approval in the face of America's powerful gun lobby, Obama said all efforts must be made to reduce chronic gun violence in the country.

He called for citizens to let their elected representatives know what they think, saying: "The only way we can change is if the American people demand it."

Opposition Republicans immediately rejected the Obama proposals as an attack on the constitutional right to bear arms.

The powerful National Rifle Association said it would work with Congress to find what it called "real solutions to protecting America's most valuable asset -- our children."

NRA President David Keene said the "Second Amendment is going to survive" Obama's efforts on gun control.

Gun control supporters, including relatives of shooting victims, lauded Obama's proposals as a good first step to reduce gun violence and urged legislators to take on the difficult issue instead of reverting to partisan postures.

A CNN/Time Magazine/ORC International poll Wednesday indicated that Americans generally favour stricter gun control, but they don't believe that stricter gun laws alone would reduce gun violence.

According to the survey, 55 percent of Americans generally favour stricter gun control laws, with 56 percent saying that it's currently too easy to buy guns in this country.

However, only 39 percent say that stricter gun controls would reduce gun violence all by themselves.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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