TALK: From left - Hinna Zeejah, 8, Taejah Goode, 10, Julia Stokes, 11, and Grant Fritz, 8, who wrote letters to President Barack Obama about the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, watch as Obama signs executive orders outlining proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, January 16 in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. [AP photo]
PRESIDENT BARACK Obama yesterday (Jan 17) unveiled the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades.
The US leader plans to press a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting.
A month after that horrific massacre, Obama also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don't require the backing of lawmakers.
The president's executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centres for Disease Control to research gun violence.
Congress must act
Speaking at a White House ceremony, Obama focused his attention on the divided Congress, saying only lawmakers could enact the most effective measures for preventing more mass shootings.
"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act," Obama said. "And Congress must act soon."
The president vowed to use "whatever weight this office holds" to press lawmakers into action on his $500-million plan.
He is also calling for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk.