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Obama Calls for Assault Weapons Ban; Chastises Congress for Serving Gun Lobby

In a White House press event, the president called on gun owners to support gun control, called out opponents for ginning up fear, and signed gun-safety executive orders.
 
 
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President Barack Obama today took to the White House podium to deliver a strongly worded statement calling on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban, to limit sales of magazines to those that contain no more than 10 rounds of ammunition, and to close a loophole in the law governing gun sales that allows purchasers of weapons at gun shows to skip the background check required for gun purchases in retail establishments.

Then he walked over to a small desk and signed executive orders that he said would provide greater resources for school safety, educate mental health workers on their options in reporting threats, and one that directed the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research into the causes of gun violence. All told, Obama's plan includes 23 executive actions.

At the president's side
during the remarks stood Joe Biden, whose White House Task Force on Gun Violence delivered its report to the president earlier this week, after meeting with stakeholder groups, includng the National Rifle Association, whose leaders have continued to voice opposition to any new gun laws, even in the wake of the massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one month ago. (See AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld,  here, on the NRA's  political power.) He opened his remarks by noting that, since last month's massacre, another 900 Americans have died from gunshot wounds.

Sharing the stage with Biden and Obama were several survivors of mass shootings, the parents of one of the Sandy Hook victims, as well as group of children who had sent the president letters in the wake of the tragedy, urging him to do something to prevent more shootings.

After the vice president delivered perfunctory remarks and introduced Obama, the president read from several of those letters, including one from a girl named Julia, who, like the others from whose letters Obama read, was asked to wave to the audience. Obama quoted her letter, reading: "'I'm not scared for my safety, I'm scared for others. I have four brothers and sisters, and I know I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them.'"

The president continued: "And these are our kids. This is what they're thinking about...This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change."

Obama Accuses Opponents of Ginning Up Fear

But Obama is well aware that the chances of passing an assault weapons ban are not in his favor. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seemed to write off any possibility of an assault-weapons ban passing the current Congress. NRA President David Keene, in an appearance on CNN's  State of the Union this weekend,  rejected outright the gun-control measures the president laid out today. 

Today, the NRA  released an ad accusing the president of hypocrisy because his children attend a school with armed security (which might have something to do with the fact that the children of a sitting president of the United States are enrolled here) while he has expressed skepticism about the efficacy of putting armed guards in public schools. "Are the president's children more important than yours?" intones a narrator.

In his remarks, Obama painted Congress as spinelessly in the thrall of the NRA, and called upon constituents -- including, presumably, gun owners -- to make their legislators pass the bans the president has called for and with which, he said, a majority of Americans agree. He went on to directly reference right-wing attacks him, in which he's painted as tyrant worthy of overthrow.

 
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