Washington, Jan 17: President Barack Obama made an emotional speech and raised fear levels with statistics but his gun control measures seem to be modest or to put in a cliche, he did not go all guns blazing.
The president's sweeping $500 million plan unveiled on Wednesday, a month after the school massacre in Connecticut, may look comprehensive effort to tighten US gun laws in nearly two decades. However, his proposals are opposed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and face a doubtful future in a divided Congress where Republicans control the House of Representatives.
Obama conceded that it will be difficult and the steps he took on his own would have less impact, urged a reluctant Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines to curb gun violence in America.
While signing 23 orders, he put the onus on the Congress. "To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act," Obama said, speaking at a White House ceremony with school children and their parents. "And Congress must act soon."
The conservatives had expected mass gun round-up or even ways to extend existing gun restrictions. So the gun lobby said, "the NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law."
Understandably, the NRA's response was muted, unlike its TV ads which called Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for allowing his daughters to be protected by armed guards while not embracing a proposal for armed guards at all schools. "Are the president's kids more important than yours?" a male narrator asks in the video. "Then why is he skeptical of putting armed security in schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards in their school?"
The NRA was not perturbed as Obama didn't even sign a single paper with the dreaded "executive order" label. The closest he got were three "presidential memoranda" and the remaining 20 were nothing more than less formal instructions he gave to aides or administration officials.
The president's announcements came after a report by Vice President Joe Biden in response to the deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. "I will put everything I've got into this and so will Joe," the president said. "But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it."
The president said 900 Americans had lost their lives to gun violence in the four weeks since the school shootings. "We can't put this off any longer," Obama declared. "Every day we wait, the number will keep growing."
Obama wants lawmakers to reinstate the expired 1994 ban on the high-grade weapons and strengthen the measure to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the prohibition by making cosmetic changes to banned guns. The president wants to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
The president's proposals include a $150 million request to Congress that would allow schools to hire 1,000 new police officers, counselors and psychologists. The White House plan also includes legislative and executive action to increase mental health services, including boosting funding for training aimed at getting young people into treatment more quickly.
The NRA and pro-gun lawmakers have long suggested that violent images in video games and entertainment are more to blame for mass shootings than the availability of guns. But Obama's proposals do little to address that concern, other than calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research links between violent images and gun attacks.
Government scientists have been prohibited from researching the causes and prevention of gun violence since 1996, when a budget amendment was passed that barred researchers from spending taxpayer money on such studies. The administration is calling on Congress to provide $10 million for expanded research.
Obama also wants lawmakers to ban armor-piercing ammunition, except for use by the military and law enforcement. And he's asking them to create stiffer penalties for gun trafficking, to provide $14 million to help train police officers and others to respond to shootings. Other steps include: Tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks, requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations and a review of safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.
Obama's gun control proposals now go before the lawmakers and one observer put it 'the administrative measures taken together are notable and important ... and well worth doing even if Congress does nothing.'
(With agencies inputs)