|U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attend an event on gun violence reduction proposals at the White House in Washington D.C., capital of the United States, Jan. 16, 2013. Obama on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping and expansive package of gun violence reduction proposals. (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled a sweeping and expansive package of gun violence reduction proposals, a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting that killed 26 people including 20 schoolchildren.
The measures, quickly assembled by a White House task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden after the December massacre sparked a nationwide debate on gun-control necessity, was deemed as the most sweeping gun-control effort in the United States in nearly two decades.
While hailed by gun-control supporters, the proposals are set to met with a backlash from gun rights groups and resistance at the Congress as the U.S. general public wavered over a priority to save the faltering economy or cure rampant gun violence.
In the presence of an applauding crowd at the White House, the president signed 23 executive actions, enabling the White House to act immediately without congressional action. The measures include helping schools to hire police officers and increasing research on gun violence.
The comprehensive package also includes proposals that require the Congress to adopt relevant legislation to renew a ban on military-style assault weapons, impose a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines and expand background checks for all gun sales.
The proposals are based on recommendations by the White House task force, which was assigned by Obama last month. The task force moved quickly last week hosting meetings with shareholders of gun issues, including gun-control advocates and groups, video games and entertainment industry as well as gun rights groups.
"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," said Obama at the event.
He was joined by gun-control advocates and children from around the country who wrote him letters in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre to express concerns over gun violence and school safety.
BACKLASH AND RESISTANCE
The school mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14 shocked the nation and triggered fresh public calls for gun control efforts. But the National Rifle Association (NRA), the country's leading gun rights organization and lobby group, has so far refused to budge from its grip on gun rights, which it says are protected by the Second Amendment.
In a statement issued immediately after Obama announced his plans, the NRA said the new steps will affect "honest, law-abiding gun owners" and continue to put children in a vulnerable situation prone to further violence.
Previously, the powerful organization had called for armed guards for every school in the country, as the response of the gun industry to the Newtown mass shooting.
In the NBC's interview at the year end, Obama voiced skepticism about the NRA's proposal of "putting more guns in schools" as "the only answer" to prevent future mass shooting tragedies at campus.
Much of the extensive federal agenda is expected to meet resistance on Capitol Hill, where hearings will be held in the next two weeks to consider those proposals, first in the Democratic-controlled Senate and then the GOP-controlled House.
Obama acknowledged that "the most important changes we can make depend on congressional action," asking Americans to urge their lawmakers to move.
"These are a few of the 23 executive actions that I'm announcing today, but as important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress," said Obama. "To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act, and Congress must act soon."
With fierce fights over fiscal problems and immigrations reforms looming, it remains to be a question that how much muscle the president would like to put into the fight against gun violence in the precious first year of his second term.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell argued last week that " spending and debt" is going to dominate the Congress in the first quarter of 2013, which will hardly spare enough time for lawmakers to take on controversial issues like gun violence in the country.
A DIVIDED PUBLIC
Although the majority of Americans do support tougher measures to counter gun violence following the Newtown tragedy, Americans are divided over how much priority the Obama administration and Congress should give to address the gun issues.
The latest The Washington Post-ABC poll showed that 52 percent of Americans say the Newtown mass shooting has made them more supportive of gun control. Now 58 percent of Americans support renewing the assault weapons ban, while 71 percent and 65 percent of the respondents support a federal database to track gun sales and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, respectively.
Of those Americans who own at least one gun at home, 45 percent support the assault weapons ban. Moreover, 86 percent of households with firearms support background checks at gun shows and 55 percent support a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
However, the poll showed a sharp divide over how much emphasis the Obama administration and Congress should place on addressing gun issues. Sixty-eight percent of the public, both Democrats and Republicans, see the economy as the clear top priority for federal action. About a third of all Americans -- 53 percent of Democrats and only 19 percent of Republicans -- believe that enacting stricter gun control laws should be a high priority.
The general public is even divided on which of the two proposals would do more to reduce gun violence in schools: 41 percent of Americans favor putting armed guards in schools, as proposed by the NRA, and 43 percent back the White House's call for tougher gun control laws.