News Column

Obama to Consider Assault Weapons Ban After School Massacre

Jan 14, 2013
Assault Weapons Ban

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday he would "vigorously pursue" action to reduce gun violence, including the possibility of an assault weapons ban.

"My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works," Obama said. "What should we be doing to make sure that our children are safe and that we're reducing the incidence of gun violence? And I think we can do that in a sensible way that comports with the Second Amendment" of the Constitution that protects gun ownership.

The remarks came on the one-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre as victims' families and other community members in Newtown, Connecticut, called for "common sense solutions" against gun violence.

He said he was considering proposals put together by Vice President Joe Biden in the wake of a school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December, and was to announce his plan of action later in the week.

Obama pointed to options including "an assault weapons ban that is meaningful."

A ban on the sale of such weapons was in place until 2004, but it expired and has not been reinstituted. Obama pledged to pursue a ban during his first election campaign, but took no action on the matter during his first term, drawing criticism from gun control advocates.

Sandy Hook Promise, the community-led initiative, is aimed at finding solutions to prevent gun violence and starting a national dialogue on mental health, school safety and gun laws.

"Doing nothing is no longer an option," said Tom Bittman, co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise.

"Children deserve to wake up in the morning unafraid to go to school," he said. "Parents deserve to know that when their kids head off to school that they are going to come home."

Supporters can sign up on the initiative's website pledging to implement changes in their communities to prevent further tragedies.

Obama however noted the political difficulty of taking action in the face of the powerful gun lobby and strong support in Congress for gun ownership rights. He noted he can take some action by using his presidential authority without Congress.

Concern that the government will take action to limit gun sales has provoked a spike in sales, but Obama dismissed as fear mongering worries that law-abiding citizens would be prohibited from owning guns.

"The issue is, are there some sensible steps that we can take to make sure that somebody like the individual in Newtown can't walk into a school and gun down a bunch of children in a shockingly rapid fashion? And surely we can do something about that," he said.

The Connecticut shooting occurred Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman killed 20 children and six adults after killing his mother at the home they shared and then committed suicide at the school.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also spoke out again Monday in favor of stricter gun laws at a two-day gun summit in Baltimore, Maryland.

"This is not a constitutional question; it's a question of political courage," Bloomberg said. "The rate of firearms homicide in America is 20 times higher than it is in other economically advanced nations. We have got to change that, and it has to start this week with real leadership from the White House."

Bloomberg also called on lawmakers and pro-gun lobbyists to stop hindering research and data collection on gun-related issues in order to create better policies.

A Gallup poll Sunday showed a spike in Americans' dissatisfaction with gun laws, with 38 percent hoping to see stricter gun regulations, up from 25 percent last year.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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