Obama proposes sweeping gun control measures
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"Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We have the right to worship freely and safely; that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin," Obama said.
"The right to assemble peacefully; that right was denied shoppers in Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado," Obama said, flanked by a group of children as he signed a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.
He also signed 23 executive-order measures, which do not require congressional approval.
The new proposals were unveiled after the December 14 killings in Newtown of 20 school children and six adults. On August 5, one gunman went on a shooting spree killing six Sikhs at the Wisconsin Gurdwara.
"We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system. We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them, and develop emergency preparedness plans.
We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence, even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator," he said.
At the same time, he asked the Congress to act soon and passed respective legislations in this regard.
"First, it's time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. Second, Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10 round limit for magazines," he said, adding that weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater.
"Finally, Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the expressed purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this," he said.
At the same time, Obama noted that he believes the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms.
"I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection.
"I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect in the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale.
"I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown," he said.
"That's what these reforms are designed to do. They're commonsense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people," he said.
Obama's proposals were based on the recommendations received from Vice President Joe Biden, who was tasked with this.
Speaking on the occasion, Biden said for this he and the cabinet members sat down with 229 groups, from law enforcement agencies to public health officials to gun officials to gun advocacy groups, to sportsmen and hunters and religious leaders including those from Hindu and Sikhs.
"I've spoken with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, had extensive conversations with mayors and governors and county officials. These recommendations are based on the emerging consensus heard from all the groups, he added.
"Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try," Obama said at the White House event.
The most fundamental set of rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, fundamental rights were denied to college students at Virginia Tech and high school students at Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown; and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent basis to tolerate; and all the families who never imagined they'd lose a loved one to a bullet, those rights are at stake, he said.
"We're responsible," Obama said.
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