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President Obama Unveils Ambitious 23-Point Gun Control Plan

January 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
At a White House news conference, President Obama unveiled a series of executive actions meant to prevent gun violence, including proposed bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Ray Suarez reports on the set of far-ranging initiatives, which also touch on mental health, health care reform and the ATF.
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RAY SUAREZ: President Obama called today for what amounts to a national awakening to stop gun deaths in America. He detailed an action plan, all the while acknowledging that the most far-reaching measures face tough going in Congress.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We can’t put this off any longer.

RAY SUAREZ: With that, the president laid out his strategy before an audience of Congress members, Cabinet advisers, and the families of those killed in the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month. And every day we wait, that number will keep growing.

So I’m putting forward a specific set of proposals. And in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality.

RAY SUAREZ: The president then offered the most far-reaching proposals to curb gun violence since at least the Clinton administration.

They include 23 steps he can take on his own, through executive action, among them, improving the system of background checks already in place for gun purchases, providing funding to study gun violence, including the effects of violent video games and entertainment, helping schools develop emergency response plans, and hire resource officers, including police, if they want them, and clarifying that mental health providers are allowed to report patients who make violent threats.

Joining the president on stage as he signed those executive orders were four children who had written to him following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary.

But Mr. Obama acknowledged the most significant reforms will not come from his office.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: As important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress. To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act, and Congress must act soon. And I’m calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away.

RAY SUAREZ: For one thing, the president is asking the Senate to confirm Todd Jones as director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, where he’s been interim director. The ATF has had no permanent head for six years.

Other proposals include barring the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and reinstating and strengthening a ban on military assault-style weapons.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: A majority of Americans agree with us on this.

And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons.

RAY SUAREZ: Additionally, the Obama plan calls for Congress to order background checks for all gun sales, ending the so-called gun show loophole. And it seeks stiffer penalties for people who sell guns to criminals.

All told, the plan would cost some $500 million. And President Obama said, it’s going to take some heavy political lifting.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any commonsense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.

RAY SUAREZ: Even before the president spoke, David Keene, head of the National Rifle Association, dismissed the plan in an interview with Judy Woodruff last night on the “NewsHour.”

DAVID KEENE, President, National Rifle Association: And the problem that we have is that none of the things that they have suggested are going to do any good. They’re asking the question, Judy, what do we do about guns? The question should be, what do we do to prevent the kinds of things that happened in Connecticut?

And we don’t think that they’re asking that question, but they’re pursuing their own agenda.

RAY SUAREZ: Today, the NRA said it will focus on securing schools, fixing the mental health system, and fully prosecuting violent criminals. The group also struck sparks with the release of this Web ad late Tuesday.

NARRATOR: Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools, when his kids are protected by armed guards at their schools?

Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.

RAY SUAREZ: Today, a White House spokesman called the ad, with its use of the Obama children, repugnant and cowardly.