Thirty-three days after 20 first-graders and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders calling for stricter gun control, and he pressured Congress to pass measures to curb gun violence.
Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and gun violence victims, the president told the nation as he spoke Wednesday in front of an audience gathered at the White House that keeping America’s children safe should be the nation’s first priority.
“We can’t put this off any longer,” he said of today’s actions designed to limit future mass shootings and gun violence.
The president conceded that no set of laws will prevent every tragedy, but said, “if there’s even one thing we can do … we have an obligation to try it.”
The president called on Congress to immediately pass legislation that would require universal background checks on anyone trying to buy a gun, saying that today nearly 40 percent of gun purchases are conducted without checks.
The president said 70 percent of National Rifle Association members want stricter background checks, and he called on the leadership of that organization to listen to its constituents. In his speech, the president criticized gun lobbyists for their allegiance to weapons’ manufacturers and not America’s children, saying the special interests are guilty of fear mongering.
According to an Associated Press-GfK poll that reached 1,004 adults by telephone Jan. 10-14, nearly six in 10 Americans said they wanted stricter gun laws in the aftermath of last month's deadly school shooting, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire weapons and limits on gun violence depicted in video games, movies and TV shows.
In his speech Wednesday, the president also called on Congress to pass legislation that would ban military-style assault weapons and place a 10-round limit on magazines. In an effort to rally Republicans, Obama said former President Ronald Reagan urged a military-style assault weapons ban in this country.
Such firearms are “weapons designed for the theater of war,” Obama said Wednesday.
Tougher punishment for those convicted of illegal gun sales was also called for by the president, as was putting more cops on the streets.
The president also said he is directing more money to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for research on the causes of gun violence.
The president has taken heat from some–including the NRA–who say stricter gun control measures threaten to strip away rights guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment.
“Let me be perfectly clear,” the president said, explaining that he respects the 2nd Amendment as it pertains to hunting, sport, protection and collection, but guns should be kept out of the hands of dangerous people.
“We have a responsibility,” he said.
The president's orders today were based on recommendations made by a Biden-led task force.
The vice president acknowledged Wednesday that getting legislation through Congress will be a tough road ahead, but said the Sandy Hook shooting has changed the political landscape.
“We have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again,” Biden said.