US PRESIDENT Barack Obama will unveil a package of proposals to combat gun violence later this week, but acknowledged on Monday the daunting politics of getting all the legislative components through Congress.
Speaking at a news conference on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr Obama said members of Congress ''are going to have to have a debate and examine their own conscience'' when it comes to considering gun legislation.
''If everybody across party lines was as deeply moved [by the Newtown shootings] and saddened as I was, then we're going to have to vote based on what we think is best,'' he added.
Vice-President Joe Biden, along with several cabinet secretaries, have compiled a list of ''common sense steps'' to reduce gun violence, Mr Obama said - the fruits of a nearly month-long working group that consulted law enforcement figures, gun rights groups, mental health advocates and gun-control supporters, among others.
Among the gun policy recommendations likely to be on Mr Obama's desk is one that hardly seems controversial: government funding for research on gun policy effectiveness - which provisions work and which ones do not. But gun research became a contentious topic in the 1990s after the National Rifle Association lobbied successfully to strip the Centres for Disease Control of all funding for projects ''used to advocate or promote gun control.''
Now in the wake of the Newtown school shootings, academic researchers and gun control advocates say they see an opening to restore fact-based research they view as falling victim to the NRA's legendary prowess on Capitol Hill.
''It is so important that research be part of any package put forward [by the White House],'' said Dr Mark Rosenberg, who was director of the centres' National Centre for Injury Control and Prevention at the time Congress stopped funding gun research in 1996. ''Knowing what works is so important and we don't yet have the answers.''
Mr Obama will discuss the recommendations with Mr Biden. The White House will reveal details of the plan later in the week.
In the White House news conference, Mr Obama reiterated his policy priorities, which he had endorsed immediately after the latest school shooting: strengthening background checks on gun buyers, limiting access to high-capacity ammunition magazines, and ''an assault weapons ban that is meaningful''.
Mr Obama acknowledged the steep political challenge of pushing firearms legislation through Congress, where the Republican-led House of Representatives have shown no inclination to sign on to new gun restrictions.
''Will all of them get through this Congress? I don't know,'' the President said.
Mr Obama said his administration also would consider administrative steps to tighten gun laws, such as improving data collection to track guns used by criminals.
The President attributed the booming gun sales occurring across the country, in part, to ''those who oppose any common sense gun control or gun safety measure [having] a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government is about to take all your guns away''.
Mr Obama said his first-term record makes it ''pretty hard to argue that somehow gun owners have had their rights infringed''.
MCT, With NEW YORK TIMES