THE United States President, Barack Obama, has announced sweeping gun control measures, calling on Congress to act fast to again ban assault rifles, ban high-capacity magazines and expand mandatory background checks for all gun sales.
Should the measures be passed they would be the most significant new laws on gun control created in the US since 1994.
Making his announcement before four children who had written to him asking for action after the Sandy Hook massacre, he sat before the assembled audience and signed 23 executive actions - orders he can issue without congressional action - he believes will cut gun violence.
Done … President Obama high-fives eight-year-old Hinna Zejah after unveiling a series of gun control proposals at the White House. Photo: Reuters
They include instructing the Centres for Disease Control to study gun violence (doctors had been banned from gathering data or discussing guns with patients under regulations backed by the National Rifle Association), increasing funding for security in schools, nominating a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, increasing access to mental health treatment and instructing government agencies to share information for the background checks.
He acknowledged the political fight to have the measures passed would be long and difficult, but declared: ''This is our first task as a society - keeping our children safe. It is how we will be judged.''
He said the measures were not only intended to help prevent mass shootings, but also the daily toll of gun violence in America. He noted that since 20 children and six adults were shot in Sandy Hook 900 people had died ''at the end of a gun'' in America.
In the audience were Chris and Lynn McDonnell, the parents of seven-year-old Grace, who was killed in Sandy Hook.
Also in the audience was Colin Goddard, who was shot four times in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. He earlier told the Vice-President, Joe Biden, he was in the audience not because of what happened to him, but because ''what happened to me keeps happening to other people and we have to do something about it''.
''Colin, I promise you we will,'' said Mr Biden, who had put the package of reforms together on behalf of Mr Obama.
Minutes after the President spoke, the Texas representative Steve Toth appeared on CNN to say God conferred rights upon the people, not Congress.
He said he would introduce legislation in the state legislature that would make it illegal for federal agents to enforce the laws in Texas.
A similar bill has already been introduced in Wyoming, while other states and counties are considering following suit.
Constitutional lawyers could argue that federal law overrides state law, should the laws be challenged.
The Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, considered a potential future presidential candidate, quickly came out opposing the proposed ban on military-style rifles.
''I think it's completely misplaced. Because here's the issue in this public policy debate that's different from others: there is a constitutional right to bear arms,'' he told the Laura Ingraham radio show.