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Obama unveils Gun Control Measures

Posted by: Nick O'Malley for The Age | 17 January, 2013 - 7:51 AM
U.S.President Barack Obama (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

WASHINGTON: The US President, Barack Obama, has announced sweeping gun control measures, calling on Congress to act fast to reintroduce a ban on assault rifles and to introduce a ban on high capacity magazines, as well as expand mandatory background checks to all gun sales.

Should the measures be passed they would be the most significant new laws on gun control created in the US since 1994.

Making his announcement before four children who had written to him asking for action after the Sandy Hook massacre, he then sat before the assembled audience and signed 23 executive actions – orders he can issue without Congressional action – he believes will help cut gun violence.

They include instructing the Centres for Disease Control to study gun violence (doctors had been banned from gathering data or discussing guns with patients under regulations backed by the National Rifle Association), increasing funding for security in schools, nominating a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, increasing access to mental health treatment and instructing government agencies to share information for the background checks.

He acknowledged the political fight to have the measures passed would be long and difficult, but declared, “This is are first task as a society – keeping our children safe. It is how we will be judged.”

He said the measures he was announcing were not only intended to help prevent future mass shootings, but also the daily toll of gun violence in America. He noted that since 20 children and six adults were shot in Sandy Hook a further 900 people had died “at the end of a gun” in America.

In the audience watching the announcement were Chris and Lynn McDonnell, the parents of seven-year-old Grace who was killed in Sandy Hook. He said for them time since the killings had been measured in seconds and minutes rather than in days.

Also in the audience was Colin Goddard, who was shot four times in the Virginia Tech massacre. He earlier told the Vice President, Joe Biden, that he was in the audience not because of what happened to him, but because “what happened to me keeps happening to other people and we have to do something about it.”
Chris, left, and Lynn McDonnell, parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School student victim Grace McDonnell, attended President Obama's announcement at the White House.

Chris, left, and Lynn McDonnell, parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School student victim Grace McDonnell, attended President Obama's announcement at the White House. Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters

“Colin, I promise you we will,” said Mr Biden, who had put the package of reforms together on behalf of Mr Obama.

Minutes after the President spoke the Texas representative Steve Toth appeared on CNN to say God conferred rights upon the people, not the Congress, and he would introduce legislation that would make it illegal to for federal agents to enforce the laws in Texas. A similar bill has already been introduced in Wyoming while other states and counties are considering following suit.

Constitutional lawyers could argue federal law overrides state law, should the laws be challenged.

The Floridian Republican senator, Marco Rubio, considered a potential future presidential candidate, quickly came out opposing the proposed ban on military-style rifles.

"I think it's completely misplaced. Because here's the issue in this public policy debate that's different from others: There is a constitutional right to bear arms," he told the Laura Ingram radio show.

"I did not create that and he cannot erase that. It is in the Constitution. If they want to change the Constitution, if they want to believe the Second Amendment should not be in there or if they believe it should be rewritten in the 21st century then let them have the guts to stand up and propose that."

He also condemned the President for choosing to share the stage with children as he made his announcement.

"I think most of us would have preferred if it just had been a straightforward address to the country because it implies that somehow those of us who do not agree with his public policy prescriptions don't equally care about children."

There was also much discussion today of a new advertisement released by the National Rifle Association which calls the President an elitist hypocrite because his children are protected by armed guards, but he does not support the NRA's proposal to install armed guards in all American schools – rather he wants to make them “gun-free zones”.

Though recent polls have shown a majority of Americans support some increased gun controls – especially with regards to background checks – there is no certainty any of the measures he has proposed will become law.

As he finished speaking the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, said the House would consider any bills when and if they were first passed by the Senate. And even though Democrats control the Senate, many of them are backed by the NRA and are sympathetic to its cause.

Over the weekend even the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, called for caution in acting on guns.

In 1994, then-president Bill Clinton championed another ban on assault rifles that expired 10 years later.

That ban is thought to have cost the party its control of the House and is one of the reasons the party has since been so fearful of gun control. Recent analysis shows the coalition of voters that supported the President in the recent election broadly support gun control.


Blog comments Your Say

  • Hey everyone, Jason feels safe in the U.S. It must be o.k.
    Thanks Jason.
    Now, can you pop over to Syria and find out it's o.k. there as well?

    Eddy Friday 18 January, 2013 - 11:22 AM
  • To Jason. I'm sure that the population of the U.S. appreciate the trouble that you went to in visiting their country and determining that they have it wrong when it comes to the troubles with shooting deaths there. Such a well informed and experienced tourist you must be to have so well assessed the gun situation. I feel a lot better now that I know that as a tourist, I'll be quite safe there and only the odd 20 or 30 or 50 school kids will be shot to bits every year. It's also good to know that all those gang members are going to shoot eachother as well. I don't suppose you considered the enormous tax burden that gang shootings create such as medical treatment, police investigations, court and legal costs etc. Apparently all the other victims of crime, lets call them what you did, "law abiding citizens", who will be victims of armed robbery and domestic violence will only die as a result of being stabbed because they were law abiding and hence immune to being shot according to you. With such total dickheaded, slow-witted observations and conclusions as yours, lets hope that you get king hit by as many drunken yobbos as there are gun crime victims in the U.S. the next time you go there and walk around with your head up a dark brown place.

    Eddy Friday 18 January, 2013 - 12:05 AM
  • I've been to the USA numerous times and never felt threatened once. Apart from a few well publicised shootings, their crime is gang related and no threat to tourists or law abiding locals. I have more chance of getting king hit by a drunken yobbo here.

    jason Thursday 17 January, 2013 - 6:20 PM
  • Having spent time in the U.S. some time after 911 I saw for my self, the paraonia that exists in the U.S.. People genuinely feel threatened on a daily basis from unknown dangers,so much that they feel the need for any gun the more powerfull the better.Until this is cured, nothing will ever change. Sad isn't it.

    Greg Thursday 17 January, 2013 - 2:42 PM
  • Sorry, I have one more point to make. Nick O'Malley, the journalist who wrote the above article for The Age, started by saying "Barack Obama has announced sweeping gun control measures".
    Was that O'Malley's assessment of the proposed measures?...."sweeping" measures? Sweeping compared to what? Doing nothing at all? Nick how did your goofy sub editor let you get away with that? Sweeping measures would mean that Obama would have to be proposing changes almost across the board. That's what "sweeping" measures are. According to your piece, other than the two actual gun and bullet magazine measures, there were only " expanding mandatory background checks" and a few non core measures. There was nothing to support your description of Obama's proposals as "sweeping".

    Eddy Thursday 17 January, 2013 - 12:46 PM
  • Nothing will change. A few less bullets, less military rifles, leaves every crazy potential murderer with the remainder of the supermarket of weapons to choose from. There will still be automatic rifles (OMG with smaller magazines), machine guns, every hand gun ever made and all the bullets you can stuff into your camo pants. These proposals will have as much effect on shooting deaths as putting an centimetre of foam rubber on the front of every car in an effort to control the road toll. The U.S. has had it's day. It's out of control in so many ways and those who are truly in charge, the banks, big money, the NRA and the rising Christian fundamentalists will fly it into the ground before they relinquish their reins to a more moderate world of thinking.

    Eddy Thursday 17 January, 2013 - 11:30 AM

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