Saturday 24 February 2018

Obama 'pressing on with gun laws'

Guns handed in during an Arizona safety campaign (AP)
Guns handed in during an Arizona safety campaign (AP)

President Barack Obama is "determined to take action" on gun violence, his vice president has promised as a high-profile round of White House meetings began in search of new policies after last month's Connecticut school shooting.

Joe Biden said the shooting of 20 children with a legally purchased, high-powered rifle weighed down the nation's conscience "in a way like nothing I've seen in my career."

While Mr Biden was meeting victims' groups and gun safety organizations ahead of this month's deadline to send proposals to Congress, a contentious debate was emerging on just what gun safety should be.

Mr Obama hopes to announce his administration's next steps to tackle gun violence shortly after he is sworn in for a second term on January 21. Meanwhile, a coalition of conservative and gun-rights groups is organising a "Gun Appreciation Day" to coincide with the weekend of his inauguration, calling on people to visit gun stores, gun ranges and gun shows with US flags and "Hands off my gun" signs.

Also the governor of New York, the state with some of the country's strictest gun laws, was proposing bans on all assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The outspoken Republican governor of neighbouring New Jersey, Chris Christie, said policymakers also must address the mental health system, improve access to drug treatment and look at the impact of violent video games.

Gabrielle Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in the head two years ago in a mass attack, is forming a political action committee to counter the existing gun lobby while reaching out to gun owners like herself. And states are exploring ideas ranging from instant background checks for people buying ammunition to one Utah town's proposal to have every household armed.

Mr Obama wants Mr Biden to give him policy proposals by the end of the month.

But as the shock and sorrow begin to fade over the Connecticut attack some gun rights advocates, including the NRA, are already fighting tighter gun restrictions, conservative groups are launching pro-gun initiatives and the Senate's top Republican has warned it could be spring before Congress begins considering any gun legislation.

Mr Obama wants Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines.

Press Association

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