President Barack Obama endorsed controversial bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines on Monday, as well as stricter background checks for gun buyers.
The gun-curbing legislation is controversial because pro-gun groups and the National Rifle Association argue that insufficient mental health care and violent images are more to blame for mass shootings than guns and that the Second Amendment in the Constitution guarantees the right for citizens to bear arms. However, in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary and Colorado Movie Theater shooting rampage, the president, family members of the victims, and many in the government have made their resolve to take action in preventing any similar future events from taking place.
"The issue here is not whether or not we believe in the Second Amendment. The issue is: Are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school and gun down a bunch of children in a shockingly rapid fashion?" the president said.
The president said he would unveil a comprehensive roadmap for curbing gun violence within days. His plan will include recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden’s gun task force, which follow weeks of wide-ranging talks with key stakeholders, including gun victim’s groups, the entertainment and video game industries and gun owner advocacy groups, as well as legislative proposals and steps Obama can implement by himself using his presidential powers.
However, this contentious legislation that include assault weapon ban will require approval from Congress that has avoided this issue for more than a decade. In addition, pro-gun groups and politically powerful has vowed to fight any measure that would limit access to guns and ammunition.
Obama acknowledged that some of the legislative proposals could have trouble getting through Congress, but he appealed to lawmakers to listen to their conscience once the legislative process begins.
"Members of Congress, I think, are going to have to have a debate and examine their own conscience," he said.
"If in fact - and I believe this is true - everybody across party lines was as deeply moved ... as I was by what happened in Newtown, then we're going to have to vote based on what we think is best. We're going to have to come up with answers that set politics aside."
The president said some gun rights group have “a pretty effective way of gaining up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government’s about to take all your guns away.”
Seeking to ease those fears, Obama insisted that responsible gun owners who have weapons for protection or hunting “don’t have anything to worry about” under the proposals he will push.
Up until now, the supporters of the assault weapon ban that Congress passed in 1994, banning high-grade military-style weapons, didn’t have the votes needed to renew it once it expires in 2004. Thus, analysts perceive that there will be a tough road ahead at Capitol Hill.
Among the executive actions Biden is believed to have recommended are tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks, elevating gun trafficking to a felony charge and ending limits that make it harder for the federal government to research gun violence.
Obama proposes to also include steps to improve school safety and mental health care, as well as recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment and video games.