US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has announced sweeping gun control measures, calling on Congress to act fast to reintroduce a ban on assault rifles, introduce a ban on high-capacity magazines and expand mandatory background checks to 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.
Obama announces sweeping gun control measures
US President Barack Obama announces gun control measures including background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
After making his announcement in front of four children who wrote to him asking for action after the Sandy Hook massacre, Mr Obama then sat before the assembled audience and signed 23 executive actions - orders he can issue without congressional action - that he believes will cut gun violence.
They include: instructing the Centres for Disease Control to study gun violence (doctors were banned from gathering data or discussing guns with patients under rules backed by the National Rifle Association); increasing funding for security in schools; nominating a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; increasing access to mental health treatment; and instructing government agencies to share information for background checks. He acknowledged the political fight to have the other measures passed would be long and difficult but said: ''This is our first task as a society - keeping our children safe. It is how we will be judged.''
He said the measures he was announcing were not only intended to help prevent future mass shootings but also the daily toll of gun violence in America. He noted that since 20 children and six adults were shot in the Sandy Hook Elementary School, a further 900 people had died ''at the end of a gun'' in America.
In the audience watching the announcement were Chris and Lynn McDonnell, the parents of seven-year-old Grace, who was killed at the school. Mr Obama said for them, time since the killings had been measured in seconds and minutes rather than in days.
Also in the audience was Colin Goddard, who was shot four times in the Virginia Tech massacre. He earlier told Vice-President Joe Biden he was there 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, Texas state representative Steve Toth appeared on CNN to say God conferred rights upon the people, not the Congress, and he would introduce legislation making 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.
However, constitutional lawyers could argue federal law overrides state law.
Floridian Republican senator Marco Rubio, considered a potential future presidential candidate, quickly attacked the proposed ban on military-style rifles. ''I think it's completely misplaced,'' he told the Laura Ingraham radio show. ''Because here's the issue in this public policy debate that's different from others: there is a constitutional right to bear arms.''