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January 17, 2013

Obama unveils his proposals to combat gun violence

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pledging to “put everything I’ve got into this,” a somber President Barack Obama challenged Congress on Wednesday to approve an extensive package of gun control proposals that he said would help prevent mass shootings and reduce the epidemic of gun violence.

The president’s response to the December massacre at a Connecticut school included renewing the expired ban on sales of assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, plus expanding background checks of gun buyers. Those measures will face strong opposition in Congress from most Republicans and some Democrats, making prospects for passage highly uncertain.

Obama acknowledged that difficulty and signaled his intention to go over the heads of lawmakers to rally public support. Vice President Joe Biden, who helped formulate the proposals, said that, after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six school staffers dead, “the world has changed, and it’s demanding action.”

The plan, which includes 23 executive actions the president can take on his own, was described as a major initiative by advocates on both sides of the debate. But in many respects, it is limited in scope, reflecting the political constraints of an issue that deeply divides the country, as well as the power of the gun lobby.

Left out, for example, was a proposal for background checks on buyers of ammunition, which Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a proponent, called “the black hole of gun violence prevention.” Such checks were included in a sweeping New York law that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Tuesday.

The most important parts of Obama’s plan will require congressional approval. They include a federal ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons, with fewer loopholes than the 1994 law that expired in 2004. Several states already have such bans. The president also wants to reinstate an earlier ban on sales of magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

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