WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled proposals for curbing gun violence, pressing 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, Conn., school shooting.
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 Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.
But the president, speaking at White House ceremony, 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.
The National Rifle Association promptly took issue with Obama's proposals, and even supportive lawmakers said the president's gun control measures face long odds in Congress.
"Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation," the NRA said in a statement. "Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
The president based his proposals on recommendations from an administration-wide task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. His plan marks the most comprehensive effort to address gun violence since Congress passed the 1994 ban on high-grade, military-style assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, and Obama wants lawmakers to renew and expand it.
Other measures Obama wants Congress to take up include limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks for all gun buyers in an attempt to close the so-called "gun-show loophole" that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and over the Internet without submitting to background checks.
Obama also intends to seek confirmation for B. Todd Jones, who has served as acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives since 2011.
The president's plan does little to address violent images in video games, movies and entertainment, beyond asking the CDC to study their impact on gun crimes. Some pro-gun lawmakers who are open to addressing stricter arms legislation have insisted they would do so only in tandem with recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment.
The president's list of executive orders also include:
— Ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks and requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
— Ending limits that make it more difficult for the government to research gun violence, such as gathering data on guns that fall into criminal hands.
— Requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
— Giving schools flexibility to use federal grant money to improve school safety, such as by hiring school resource officers.
— Giving communities grants to institute programs to keep guns away from people who shouldn't have them.