WASHINGTON -- President Obama today pressed Congress to enact stricter gun regulations while he committed $500 million in federal funding to ensure more comprehensive background checks, conduct research into the causes of gun violence and allow schools to hire more mental health counselors and school resources officers.
It is the most sweeping effort to curb gun violence in decades.
The $500 million package includes 23 measures that make up the most comprehensive gun control package in decades. Congressional action is not needed to enact the 23 executive orders and presidential memoranda.
The president pushed Congress to legislate universal background checks, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and criminalize the possession of armor-piercing bullets.
The announcement comes 33 days after 20 children were among the dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. -- the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history.
"When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us we must act now," the president said during a press conference today.
Among the attendees were the parents of Grace McDonnell, a 7-year-old killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.
As he signed the executive orders he was flanked by four school children who had written letters asking him to keep them and their siblings safe.
"These are our kids," the president said. "This is our first task as a country: keeping our children safe."
Republicans were quick to respond, saying the president should leave gun control to Congress and that his initiatives infringe on law-abiding citizens' rights while doing little to prevent determined criminals from obtaining guns.
The president said his initiatives respect the Second Amendment while they make it harder for irresponsible law-breakers to inflict harm.
Administration officials said the initiatives grew out of a series of 22 meetings Vice President Joe Biden held with 31 elected officials and representatives of 220 organizations on all sides of the gun control issue.
The legislative proposals are wildly unpopular among conservatives, but Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House would consider them.
Among the executive orders are tougher penalties for people who lie on background check and new federal requirements for law enforcement officials to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
Washington bureau chief Tracie Mauriello: email@example.com or 703-996-9292. First Published January 16, 2013 5:45 AM