Obama also signed 23 executive actions, which require no congressional approval. But the president, speaking at the White House, acknowledged the most sweeping, effective actions must be taken by lawmakers.
Obama was joined by children who wrote him letters about gun violence in the weeks following the Connecticut shooting. Families of the children killed in the shooting, as well as survivors, were also in the audience.
The president appealed to the nation’s conscience, but his announcement promises to set up a bitter fight with a powerful pro-gun lobby that has long warned supporters that Obama wanted to take away their guns.
The NRA even went as low as making a commercial criticizing the President for having armed guards for his daughters while objecting to the NRA proposal of having armed guards in all schools instead of having a ban on assault weapons.
The U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership of any country in the world, and pro-gun groups see any move on gun restrictions as an offense against the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Critics counter that the country’s founding fathers never could have foreseen assault weapons more than two centuries ago, when guns were intended for the common, not individual, defense, guns were often stored in community areas and rifles fired one shot at a time.
Emotions have been high since the Connecticut shooting, which Obama has called the worst day of his presidency. He largely ignored the issue of gun violence during his first term but appears willing to stake his second term on it now.