* White House invites children as backdrop for gun control
* Assault weapons ban, stronger background checks on list
* Proposals come day after New York passes tough gun law
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON, Jan 15 U.S. President Barack Obama
will propose an assault weapons ban and better background checks
for gun buyers on Wednesday as part of a package of proposals to
curb gun violence one month after the Newtown school massacre.
The proposals will include executive and legislative
measures, with the latter sure to face an uphill battle in
Congress, where appetite for renewing an assault weapons ban is
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who led a task force
that made recommendations on the issue, will present the
measures at a White House event attended by children from around
the country who wrote letters to the president about gun
violence and school safety.
Obama will urge lawmakers to act quickly, White House
spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
"The president has made clear that he intends to take a
comprehensive approach," Carney said at a briefing.
"There are specific legislative actions that he will
continue to call on Congress to take, including the assault
weapons ban, including a measure to ban high-capacity magazine
clips, including an effort to close the very big loopholes in
the background check system in our country," he said.
The proposals will be Obama's first major foray into gun
control, despite several mass shootings that have occurred
during his four years in office. Gun restrictions are a divisive
issue in the United States, which constitutionally protects a
citizen's right to bear arms.
Biden delivered his recommendations to Obama after a series
of meetings with representatives from the weapons and
entertainment industries requested by the president after the
Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20
children and six adults were killed.
The proposals are likely to touch on mental health and could
address violence portrayed in video games.
Obama, who has said the day of the shooting was the worst of
his presidency, said on Monday he would study the panel's ideas
and then move forward "vigorously" on those that he endorsed,
including some actions he could take without congressional
A White House official said Obama had not endorsed all of
the ideas put forward by Biden's team but declined to lay out
specifics on what would be announced.
Obama has signaled his plan would include elements that did
not require congressional approval. The president could take
action to ban certain gun imports and bolster oversight of
A spokeswoman for Representative Jackie Speier, a lawmaker
from California who was one of a group of Democrats who met with
Biden about the issue on Monday, said his task force had
identified 19 different options Obama could choose to implement
through executive action.
"(Biden) did not indicate which or how many of those options
the president will take up or present to the nation tomorrow,"
said the spokeswoman, Jenny Werwa.
The president's move is not the only action being taken on
gun control nationwide. New York State lawmakers on Tuesday
approved one of the toughest gun control bills in the United
States and Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law.
The proposals are likely to draw ire from the National Rifle
Association, a powerful lobbying group that is traditionally
associated with Republicans. The NRA proposed having armed
officials in schools throughout the country and has said the
media and violent video games shared blame for the Sandy Hook
Elementary School massacre, the second-deadliest school shooting
in U.S. history.
There is little on which the Obama administration and NRA
The White House is also pushing for the Senate to confirm a
director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and
Explosives, an agency that has been without a Senate-confirmed
director since 2006.
Obama nominated Andrew Traver, a Navy veteran who ran the
agency's Chicago division, for the job in November 2010, and
again early in 2011. The NRA opposed Traver's nomination.
The Senate is in recess, and Obama could choose to make a
recess appointment to fill the job. Such an appointment would
likely rankle lawmakers, whose support Obama will need to get
his proposals passed.
Though the chances of getting a ban on assault weapons
appear low, the White House seems set on getting Obama's support
of such a ban solidified in a legislative draft.
Gun control advocates are pressing the administration to
keep up the pressure on the issue in the face of other policy
priorities, including deficit reduction and immigration reform.
"In three months are we going to be talking about these
issues? Because that's the only way you make any progress," said
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a
progressive-leaning advocacy group.
The organization, whose officials have close ties to the
White House, released a report suggesting 14 legislative
proposals and executive actions to reduce gun violence,
including requiring a background check for all gun sales.