Alongside Vice President Joe Biden and a group of children who had written in support, President Barack Obama signed a proposal to Congress Wednesday to strengthen United States gun laws, including universal background checks, limiting the number of bullets in a clip, and renewing a ban on military-grade assault rifles.
"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," Obama said.
He listed some specific measures, including a 10-round limit on magazines for firearms, and asked congress to confirm Todd Jones to fill the long-dormant role of chief for the Bureau of Alchol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) — and briefly mentioned other measures, including helping schools hire more resource offices and making sure mental health professionals have the tools they need. He suggested Congress should fund research into the link between gun violence and violent video games.
Assault rifle bans and universal background checks made up the core of his proposal.
"The type of assault rifle used in [the movie theater shooting in Aurora] has one purpose ... to pump out as many rounds as possible," he said. "Weapons designed for the theatre of war have no place in a movie theater."
The law already requires gun owners to run background checks, but federal authorities have struggled to enforce that law.
Obama said he believes Americans are ready, and that he has majority support — including 70 percent of the National Rifle Association, according to one poll — but that lobbyists and pundits have held laws back.
"There will be lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty," he said. "Not because that's true, but because they want to generate fear, revenues or higher ratings for themselves. The only way we'll be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different."
Last month Obama asked Biden to come up with "concrete steps" to prevent mass shootings and the broader epidemic of gun violence. Biden's task force met with some Sandy Hook parents, including those of who was one of 20 students and six educators killed at the elementary school in the Dec. 14 shooting.
Other parents of children lost in the shooting have actively petitioned the White House to act.
"We recognize that no single law or reform will prevent targeted school shootings," said the parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner in a letter provided to the Hartford Courant. "However, by enacting a wide range of reforms, federal, state and local governments can make our children much safer in schools."
Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe, one of the first on the scene of the shooting, also asked the President to consider new legislation — specifically, limiting access to the kind of heavy weaponry used by the shooter.
"We never like to think we're outgunned in any situation we're dealing with," he said in an interview with NBC News.
The advocacy group Sandy Hook Promise issued a statement applauding the president's approach.
As it has said before, though, including at its press conference on Monday, change can't stop at new legislation.
The statement came from one of the group's co-founder, Tim Makris, a Sandy Hook Elementary School parent.
"Sandy Hook Promise welcomes the broad focus of the President's proposals," Makris wrote to Patch. "We appreciate his decisive action to help address through Executive Order immediate opportunities for reform, and we applaud his broader commitment to finding meaningful common sense solutions to help prevent similar acts of violence in other communities in America. Hopefully this will begin a thoughtful debate in Congress on how best to prevent future incidents of gun violence."
The statement asks both citizens and politicians to which reads, in part:
"I promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and my country safer from similar acts of violence."
The organization, which launched the promise Monday as a way for citizens to react to — and, it hopes, prevent — mass shootings like the one that took the lives of 20 children and six adults in December.
Since then, the group has gained support from Sen. Chris Murphy, who released the following statement Wednesday:
These are strong recommendations, and Congress should act on them now—before another mass tragedy occurs. If assault weapons and high capacity magazines were not so readily available, I am convinced there would be more little boys and girls alive in Newtown today. If background checks were universal, our city streets would be safer. There are no longer any excuses for inaction. If the horror of Sandy Hook doesn't move Congress to act on common sense gun laws, I have no idea what will. I’m so appreciative of the leadership of President Obama and Vice President Biden on this issue, especially their willingness to involve the Sandy Hook parents and families in this effort. Now, it’s time to get to work.