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Obama gun control plans likely to meet stiff opposition
January 16, 2013, 3:43 pm

Obama at the memorial service for victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. [Getty Images]

Obama at the memorial service for victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. [Getty Images]

In what is likely to be a decisive battle for his administration in Congress, US President Barack Obama is set to propose executive and legislative measures to ban assault weapons and make background checks for gun buyers more intrusive.

Obama’s proposals, expected later today, come a month after the Newtown school massacre in which a lone gunman with assault rifles killed 20 children and six adults.

In the aftermath of one of the most deadly school shootings in the past few decades, Obama formed a gun violence task force chaired by Vice-President Joe Biden. Biden met with a number of gun industry officials since the shooting and made a number of recommendations to the president.

But the president’s efforts are likely to run into concrete opposition in Congress, where the National Rifle Association (NRA), the largest gun lobby in the US, wields considerable influence.

According to a Wall Street Journal report Tuesday, “Congress has done little in the realm of gun-control since 1994, when a crime bill that included a ban on some semiautomatic rifles was enacted. That ban expired in 2004.”

The NRA has rejected outright any ban on assault rifles and accused Biden and Obama of having an “agenda to attack the Second Amendment” to the US Constitution, which gives Americans the right to bear arms.

The Newtown killings have triggered fierce, often emotional debate, in the US with many agreeing that the latest violence is a “game changer”.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post earlier this week, Democratic Senator from Virginia Tim Kaine argues, “Americans are ready to support the concrete steps needed to sharply reduce the chance that there will be another Newtown or Virginia Tech. The question for our elected leaders is whether we’re up to our responsibilities.”

Other elected officials held town hall meetings and forums to create debates in all levels of society.

US Congressman Rep. Mike Thompson, a Vietnam Vet, sponsored a forum in Napa Valley, California last week with the aim of seeking local community ideas that could help determine policy in Washington.

A number of Napa Valley residents who attended the forum called on local authorities to improve mental health, which they blamed for much of the violence. Others blamed media sensitization of gun violence.

Historian Mark LeVine, however, argues that mass shooting are a symptom of a larger social disease, one that is a natural product of the society in which Americans live and the history and contemporary political dynamics that have produced it.

The debates have also fueled fears that popular assault rifles may no longer be available; this in turn has created a rush to purchase such weapons.

Gun sales in New York, for example, spiked ahead of stricter state legislation restricting assault weapons ownership. Local media in Indiana reported record gun sales, while a Las Vegas TV station reported that gun stores were running out of stock for certain rifles.

“Gun store owners say most customers are buying gun models that are being discussed in the gun control debate,” KLAS-TV reported Tuesday.

With input from Agencies