(CBS NEWS) -- Setting the stage for what could be the most sweeping political
battle over gun control in decades, President Obama today laid out a
comprehensive package for reducing gun violence in America, a multi-part
plan he says will not only "help prevent mass shootings" but also to
"reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country."
See Also: What are President Obama's gun control proposals?
Speaking to an audience that included family members of those killed a
month ago in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as well as
children who wrote to Mr. Obama in the wake of recent episodes of mass
violence, the president outlined a series of steps both political and
administrative he says would limit access to guns and certain types of
ammunition, make mental health care more attainable, and increase
federal funds for both research and law enforcement.
Accompanied by Vice President Biden onstage, Mr. Obama acknowledged
the difficulties of pursuing stricter legislation on gun laws, but said
he would use "whatever weight this office holds" to achieve his agenda.
while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless
act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent
every tragedy, every act of evil, if there's even one thing we can do to
reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then
we've got an obligation to try," he said. "This is our first task as a
society: Keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And
their voices should compel us to change."
Among the initiatives outlined in Mr. Obama's plan include universal
background checks for gun sales; the reinstatement and strengthening of
the assault weapons ban; capping ammunition magazines to a 10-round
limit; banning armor-piercing ammunition; providing schools with
resource officers and school counselors; putting more police officers on
the streets; creating serious punishments for gun trafficking, and
ensuring that health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
The president also outlined a series of 23 executive actions he
can take without congressional approval, including measures aimed at
making federal background check data widely available, accessible, and
maximally effective; staying ahead of the curve on the newest gun safety
measures; tracing seized guns and ensuring they don't go back into the
hands of dangerous gun owners; making sure schools and other
institutions are equipped and prepared for the possibility of shooter
situations; aggressively prosecuting gun crime; and improving mental
health resources and discourse. He signed some of
those directives immediately after his remarks.
president, making his case to Americans across the country, argued that
substantive, wide-reaching change would not be possible without their
help. He urged people who share his views to help him wage an uphill
battle against the "pundits and politicians and special interest
lobbyist" he said would be behind the scenes doing "everything they can
to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes
"I will put everything I've got into this -- and so will Joe -- but I
tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand
it," Mr. Obama said. "We're going to need voices in those areas and
those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is
strong to speak up and to say this is important. It can't just be the
usual suspects. We have to examine ourselves in our hearts, and ask
yourselves what is important?"
Any effort on behalf of
the White House to push new gun laws through Congress is sure to face
immense opposition from the gun lobby, which has for years wielded its
formidable financial and organizing power to prevent the passage of
federal laws that would tighten restrictions on gun ownership. And
groups like the National Rifle Association are clearly gearing up to
fight the president's recommendations: Early this morning, before Mr.
Obama had even unveiled his proposals, the group released an ad calling
the president an "elitist hypocrite" because his daughters have Secret
The majority of House Republicans, who will set the legislative
agenda, have also shown little appetite for most of the new gun laws on
"The assault weapons ban, the magazine
limitations, does not solve the problem of gun crime," said Rep. Dave
Reichert, R-Wash., a former sheriff, in an interview today with CBS
News. "I think you really have to address the mental health issues and
that's the first and foremost issue. And then secondly, the laws that we
have in this land already need to be enforced."
In a statement
following Mr. Obama's speech, Michael Steel, a spokesman for House
Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., said House committees of jurisdiction would
review the president's recommendations, and that if the Senate passes a
bill, "we will also look at that." But in the aftermath of the
protracted political battle over the so-called "fiscal cliff," many
question Boehner's willingness to give compromise on such an issue
perceived in such intensely partisan terms.
"The most important
changes we can make depend on congressional action," Mr. Obama said.
"They need to bring these proposals up for a vote, and the American
people need to make sure that they do. Get them on record. Ask your
member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep
guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on
military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they
say no, ask them why not?"
Despite the obvious hurdles, some gun control advocates believe that a
recent groundswell of support for stricter gun laws could exert enough
pressure on moderate Republicans to force a vote in the House.
White House has also pointed to the push for universal background
checks as its central priority in this fight. Part of the reason for
that, according to the administration, is what Biden recently called a
"surprising" and near-universal emphasis on the subject in his meetings
with stakeholders over the past few weeks. But many also believe the
background checks could be a more palatable option for some on the
Reichert, though he dismissed the effectiveness of
the assault weapons ban and caps on high-capacity magazines, called the
idea of universal background checks "a part of the total package that
should be examined that could make a difference."
laws, gun crime laws, state laws and federal laws, we need to have more
emphasis on enforcing those laws, holding people accountable who have
committed crimes or about to commit crimes," he told CBS. "We need to
gather that information and hold those people accountable that commit
In his remarks today, Mr. Obama reiterated his
respect for the Second Amendment and America's "strong tradition of gun
ownership," and he acknowledged the nation's law-abiding gun owners. But
he argued that some modest limits on gun laws don't violate the Second
Amendment rights of hunters and sportsmen, while the actions of mass
shooters do infringe on the constitutional rights of their victims.
with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to
allow others to do the same. We don't live in isolation. We live in a
society, a government for and by the people. We are responsible for each
other," he said. "We have the right to worship freely and safely; that
right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The right to assemble
peacefully; that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon, and
moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado."
"Let's do the right thing," he continued. "Let's do the right thing for them and for this country that we love so much."
the president's remarks today, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced a
Jan. 30 Senate Judiciary hearing on issues relating to gun violence.
questions we face about our national gun policy extend beyond the
tragic results of mass murder; they extend to how we care for those with
mental illness, how we manage the exposure of children to violence in
popular media, and simple matters of gun safety," he said in a
statement. "In our hearings, we will ensure an open forum for a
constructive discussion about how we can better protect our communities
from mass shootings, while respecting the fundamental right to bear arms
recognized by the Supreme Court."