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Obama presses for gun policy changes after Newtown massacre

By Julie Pace

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:36 a.m. HST, Dec 19, 2012

WASHINGTON » Spurred by a horrific elementary school shooting, President Barack Obama tasked his administration today with creating concrete proposals to reduce the gun violence that has plagued the country.

"This time, the words need to lead to action," said Obama, who set a January deadline for the recommendations. He tasked Vice President Joe Biden with leading the effort and vowed to push for implementation of the policy proposals without delay.

The president, who exerted little political capital on gun control despite a series of mass shootings in his first term, bristled at suggestions that he had been silent on the issue during his first four years in office. But he acknowledged that the Friday's deadly shooting had been "a wake-up call for all of us."

Twenty children and six adults were killed when a man carrying a military-style rifle stormed Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., Friday morning.

The president also called on Congress today to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and to pass legislation that would close the gun show "loophole," which allows people to purchase firearms from private dealers without a background check. Obama also said he wanted Congress to pursue the possibility of limiting high-capacity ammunition clips.

"The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing," Obama said. "The fact that we can't prevent every act of violence doesn't mean we can't steadily reduce the violence."

The president's announcement today underscores the urgency the White House sees in formulating a response to the Newtown shooting. The massacre has prompted several congressional gun rights supporters to consider new legislation to control firearms, and there is some concern that their willingness to engage could fade as the shock and sorrow over the Newtown shooting eases.

Obama said it was "encouraging" to see people of different backgrounds and political affiliations coming to an understanding that the country has an obligation to prevent such violence.

Appealing to gun owners, Obama said he believes in the Second Amendment and the country's strong tradition of gun ownership. And he said "the vast majority of gun owners in America are responsible."

"I am also betting that the majority, the vast majority, of responsible law-abiding gun owners would be some of the first to say that we should be able to keep an irresponsible, law-breaking few from buying a weapon of war," Obama said.

Obama also tasked the Biden-led team with considering ways to improve mental health resources and address ways to create a culture that doesn't promote violence. The departments of Justice, Education, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, along with outside groups and lawmakers, will all be part of the process.

Biden's prominent role in the process could be an asset for the White House in getting gun legislation through Congress. The vice president spent decades in the Senate and has been called on by Obama before to use his long-standing relationships with lawmakers to build support for White House measures.

The president challenged the National Rifle Association, the country's most powerful gun lobby and key backer of many Republican politicians, to join the broader effort to reduce gun violence as well.

"Hopefully they'll do some self-reflection," Obama said of the NRA.

The NRA made its first comments since the shooting on Tuesday, promising to offer "meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

Obama said that while taking the necessary steps to reduce gun violence would take commitment and compromise, he said it could be achieved if Washington summons "even one tiny iota of the courage of those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday."

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saveparadise wrote:
Supposed gun free states do nothing to curb crimes. There are just too many crazies with too many freedoms roaming the streets. The problem is how do you determine who is going to go wacko and start shooting, slashing, or plowing a truck through a playground? Do not let irrational fears of a weapon cloud your vision of the greater problem to the solution which is the evils that lurk in the hearts of man. A weapon is also an effective deterrent for defensive efforts as well.
on December 19,2012 | 07:53AM
ballen0607 wrote:
I don't think people advocating gun control fear the "weapon". They fear being in a society where those "whackos" you speak of can get their hands on those weapons so easily. Using a legally purchased assault rifle to kill 20 children is much easier to do in 2 minutes than slashing a kid or plowing into a caged playground. "Evil", in the form of unpredictable behaviors from human beings, is much more difficult to regulate than their ability to gain the guns that amplify that evil into the results we saw in Connecticut last week.
on December 19,2012 | 09:37AM
what wrote:
Gun control laws do not have much affect on crime and murder rates. If you look at countries like Britain which has bans on guns, they always had low murder rates which was low even back in the day when you could legally buy a gun in London. Look at a country like Mexico. Strict gun laws. You would be arrested even for carrying a pocket knife! Guess what? They continue to murder each other at alarmingly high rates, gun laws or not.
on December 19,2012 | 10:27AM
ballen0607 wrote:
Well Britain also had 35 firearms deaths last year. 35! And they have only had ONE major spree shooting since the Dunblane incident that lead them to their ban. But to give you the benefit of the doubt, I can at least see the argument of gun control laws not making a significant downturn in crime. However, I don't understand the folks that say it'll make it worse. As if America is full of criminals hiding beneath the surface, waiting for the signal to ATTACK. Ridiculous. And Mexico? Seriously?! You're going to compare that drug ridden, economically unstable and corrupt country to ours? That's like saying, "Iran has speeding laws, looks how crazy their country is! Speeding laws won't work here".
on December 19,2012 | 10:46AM
kaupena wrote:
Are they talking about future sales and transfers of assault rifles or total confiscation of all assault rifles?
on December 19,2012 | 07:57AM
saveparadise wrote:
Sorry, sincerest condolences to the families and friends of all victims of violent crimes in this season of good will. Auwe to all of us for further sensationalization of a heinous crime for political agenda.
on December 19,2012 | 08:02AM
aomohoa wrote:
More Aloha in you most that many I have seen lately. Mahalo
on December 19,2012 | 08:09AM
egghead wrote:
w/o getting into specific suggestions, if we look at the simple choice between having more guns in the community or less, and which would lead to less killing, the answer has to be less guns. I just don't see how having more guns leads to less people getting killed. Packing a pistol 24/7 for protection? Is that what we want to create for our kids & grand kids?
on December 19,2012 | 08:11AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Is our legacy to be the disarming of a free citizenry based on fear and the inability to address the issues within our culture that have led us to this point?
on December 19,2012 | 10:44AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Sometimes it helps to look at the numbers:

According to government statistics gun deaths, 18,000 annual deaths by guns are suicides. In fact suicide is the largest cause of death by guns. Take out those numbers and the homicides total a bit over 12,000 deaths a year - that's a lot but far less than the media would like us to believe. Assault weapons represent under 400 deaths a year. Again, not negligible but not what the ooga-booga scare them to death press would like to portray.

As a priority we should focus on why so many Americans want to kill themselves.

on December 19,2012 | 08:15AM
Anonymous wrote:
Now I feel a lot better. Only 400 assault rifle deaths and 12,000 murders? Merry Christmas is back. Please read egghead's post right above yours. Do you actually believe more guns equal less killing?
on December 19,2012 | 08:38AM
ballen0607 wrote:
First off, suicides take one life. Murder's take others. No one here is complaining about Lanza's suicide, they are focusing the 26 murders. Japan had 14 firearm deaths last year. Britain had 35 firearm deaths. Australia has had NO MAJOR SHOOTINGS since their gun ban. I REALLY LIKE THOSE NUMBERS!!! You're priorities are misguided...
on December 19,2012 | 09:32AM
hawaiikone wrote:
In Australia self defense is not considered a valid reason for gun ownership. I hope you realize that criminals support your concept of gun control 100%. Your priorities are naive at best.
on December 19,2012 | 10:50AM
ballen0607 wrote:
I don't understand how your interpretation of Australia's gun control policy rebukes my argument. But speaking of interpretation, I'm loving your interpretation of the "criminal's opinion". Now I could go on for days on how you don't have statistics on criminal mentality, but let's just focus on yours. Do you honestly believe that gun laws will make crime go UP? As if criminals are hiding in the darkness and waiting for their moment to strike once GUN CONTROL happens. That's the picture you seem to be painting. But, "my priorities are naive"? They at least campaign for effective policy changes that have been lacking since the days of Columbine. I assume your priorities will allow events like these to continue.
on December 19,2012 | 11:24AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Although I'm sure you're well versed on criminal thought processes, and well able to explain it to me for "days", it really isn't too much of a jump to assume that a criminal would prefer an unarmed victim as opposed to an armed one. Simple. Also, as long as we're discussing this, why is it that for over 200 years we've been a fully armed citizenry, including several generations of "assault" guns, but it's only the last couple of decades that have seen this explosion of mass murders? A much more pertinent question deserving our consideration. In the interim, while we try and address that issue, further disarming of potential victims is totally unfair. Stricter rules surrounding the ownership and storage, even more intense qualification requirements, and other similar regulations I can support, but the examples you chose to illustrate reveal your solution to be removing guns from our possession, which I cannot support.
on December 19,2012 | 11:55AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Have you seen the reports on sales of guns and high volume magazines? Obama has just done more to increase the number of weapons, including assault weapons in the US than anybody else in history. Law of unintended consequences. More folks now own assault weapons than ever before! Great job, Barry. So now the only thing will be confiscation, I guess.
on December 19,2012 | 10:56AM
tiki886 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 19,2012 | 08:51AM
ballen0607 wrote:
You know....so many folks are pointing to mental illness as the reasoning behind these tragedies. Sometimes I look to the insecure gun owners who fear government takeover. Who are the mentally ill folks now?
on December 19,2012 | 09:28AM
johncdechon wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on December 19,2012 | 09:51AM
ballen0607 wrote:
See, this is what I'm talking about! Your fear of being a VICTIM is what makes me have to continuously see these events like this every few months. Believe me! I'm not harping gun control because I want to take your guns. I'm sick of seeing people get killed from them. However, YOU feel it is a higher priority to keep your personal protection despite the many innocent lives that are sacrificed for that PROTECTION. We have left gun owners alone, for many decades, even in the years since Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora. I'm sick of you people saying, "IM SCARED, I HAVE MY RIGHT TO PROTECT", therefore these kind of things should continue. IT IS SELFISH INSECURITY!
on December 19,2012 | 10:21AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Second Amendment, baybee.
on December 19,2012 | 10:41AM
ballen0607 wrote:
Outdated honey! If you're gonna harp 2nd amendment all day, go buy a musket. Those are the arms they were referencing to when they constructed that right. Assault weapons are way past the days of muzzle loading and militias that rebel the British government.
on December 19,2012 | 11:27AM
hawaiikone wrote:
"Muskets" were the arms of the day, which gave the citizen equal standing with anyone else.Totally absurd analogy. Simply because your lack of exposure to violent crime or participation in armed conflict allows you a feeling of security there are many of us that haven't been as fortunate. I would not wish such experiences on anyone, yet ask that they in turn respect the derived opinions of those that have.
on December 19,2012 | 12:49PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The 2nd Amendment is to protect the citizenry from the tyranny of the gubmint. So we need to be able to do that to fulfill the intent of the Constitutin. The gubmint has automatics so even a semi-automatic is not parity. But at least it's in the same general ballpark, unlike a musket. Second Amendment, baybee.
on December 19,2012 | 01:55PM
TLehel wrote:
How condescending. There's nothing wrong with being armed because there are dangers out there and guns are great protection against that. However, there is absolutely no need for people to have assault weapons. All you need is a pistol to defend yourself in your home. What in jeebus' name do you need an assault weapon for? Exactly. You don't. There's a difference between "want" and "need" that the NRA and ignorant gun owners need to get a mental grip on. I agree with what Obama is trying to do. Taking assault weapons out of the average American's hand would at least stop these crazy people from killing as many people, if not deterring them entirely. As for reducing the clip size on weapons in general, I don't think it's actually necessary. If you're going to defend yourself from an attacker you'll need all the bullets you can get in one pistol.
on December 19,2012 | 10:57AM
hawaiikone wrote:
Gradual, seemingly reasonable changes are so benign in nature that by the time you step back and see what you've done, it's too late. Many today are ready to allay their fears by trying to remove guns from society, but are unwilling to consider the true cost of doing so.
on December 19,2012 | 11:05AM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Everybody should have the right to defend themselves but assault rifles? Are people actually concerned that the Chinese or North Koreans are going to invade our homes "Red Dawn" style? Worried about our own government invading our homes? If they did, no assault rifle would save you anyway so that argument is WEAK! Twenty dead children alone should bring to light the nonsense of people owning assault rifles. I repeat- TWENTY DEAD CHILDREN!!!!! Minimum three shots per child. Three shots in their tiny little helpless bodies. Yeah the dude was crazy and we cannot control the amount of crazy people out there but we can limit the types of weapons they have access to. You don't need assault rifles for hunting and if you do you should take up a sport requiring less accuracy like swimming. The stupidest argument I heard was from a Texas politician who said the principal should have had her gun in her closet so she could have killed the assailant before he got to the students. He couldn't get stupider if he suggested the students arm themselves but I bet that would be his next suggestion. I bet he doesn't even have the cajones to tell that to the parents burying their children today. Paranoid about somebody invading your house? Get a home alarm and camera system. Not much more expensive than a gun and it would deter people from entering your house and assaulting you or stealing your precious guns when you ar not at home. Or get a small yappy house dog as a live alarm system - it can be used to bite one person but not even a crazy person would be able to kill twenty children with a small yappy dog.
on December 19,2012 | 10:54AM
ballen0607 wrote:
There are still some sane people on this forum! Thank you sir!
on December 19,2012 | 11:29AM
saveparadise wrote:
There is no need to fear a rifle that does not have a brain and cannot fire itself. Please understand that it is the perpetrator of the murders that needs to be determined and put under control. Does it matter that he/she kills 20 in 5 minutes or 50 over a 5 year span with a single shot weapon, a knife, a hangman's noose, bare hands, poison, etc.? These killers do not think like normal people so stop with the silly anecdotes. They will do what they have to do to get their desired result. We are predictable, they know us. We don't know who they are or when they will strike. Banning weapons would just be giving yourself a false sense of security. Do not fear the instrument of death but do fear the person behind the instrument as the instruments will vary.
on December 19,2012 | 12:43PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
What people call assault rifles are simply semi-automatics. Pull the trigger, gun goes boom. One boom per trigger pull. That is exactly the same as your uncle's deer rifle, most shotguns, certainly most hand guns - in fact most guns sold today. The fact that the "modern sporting rifle" looks military, scary or tough has nothing to do with anything. That's point one.

Point two is about high capacity magazines. There is room for debate about whether a 20-30 round magazine should be readily available but keep in mind that any halfway trained shooter can change a magazine in 3 seconds. So if we go with 5 round magazines only, the difference in rate of fire is actually not much. Sure, seconds count but to think banning large magazines is an answer to the problem is not accurate.

The national gun debate is actually a good thing. How it come out I do not know. I have my position and maybe you have yours. My point is that you need to understand what is being discussed.

on December 19,2012 | 01:26PM
UhhDuhh wrote:
Please read my post carefully. I did not say ban all guns as everybody has a constitutional right to defend themselves. However, I seriously question the need for assault rifles. And to answer your question, yes it does matter if he killed 26 people in 5 minutes because, ummm, he did. Period. Assault rifles allowed him to kill a lot of peole really fast. I doubt he could have done the same in 5 minutes with a hangman's noose or his bare hands. We cannot predict anybody's mental state but we can control the availability of these rapid-fire weapons. It protects everybody from crazy people and irresponsible gunowners who allow crazy people access to their weapons. Until that happens, I think everybody should fear the instrument of death because it is rapid fire and there is no way right now that anybody can prevent it from getting into the hands of a crazy person. Ask the dead kids how it feels to be dead.
on December 19,2012 | 02:49PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Bloomberg News reports WalMart in 5 states has sold out of all its modern sporting rifles (what the great unwashed call "assault rifles") and almost all high capacity magazines (which the great unwashed call "clips").

In one shrewd move, Obama just put more semi-automatic, high capacity magazine carbines on the street than anybody else. The world's largest retailer is running out of guns for sale thanks to Barry.

on December 19,2012 | 01:16PM
ross13moon wrote:
REAL hunters only need single action firearm because they have developed the ability to kill prey with a single shot…anyone who wants to shoot semi automatic or full automatic is a mentally deficient wanna-be concerned with only killing everything
on December 19,2012 | 05:35PM
2Lolo wrote:
Obama should have a little word about Hollyweird, his greatest supporter. Violence has gone rampant in modern media and show biz is to blame. Quinten Terrintino and gang. Pay attention.
on December 20,2012 | 12:09AM
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