FILE - This Jan. 14, 2103 file photo shows President Barack Obama gesturing as he answers questions from members of the media during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington.
(AP) -- Without waiting for Congress, President Barack Obama on
Wednesday announced a sweeping $500 million program to curb gun
violence, setting up a fight over universal background checks and bans
on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition
magazines, in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.
also used his presidential powers to issue 23 orders that don't require
congressional approval. The largely incremental executive steps include
requiring federal agencies to make more data available for background
checks, appointing a fulltime director of the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease
Control to research gun violence.
But the president, speaking at the White House, acknowledged the most effective actions must be taken by lawmakers.
"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act," Obama said. "And Congress must act soon."
was flanked by children who wrote him letters about gun violence in the
weeks following the Newtown shooting. Families of the 20 children
killed in the massacre, as well as survivors, were also in the audience
along with law enforcement officers and members of Congress.
"This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe," Obama said. "This is how we will be judged."
The president based his proposals on recommendations from an administration-wide task force led by Vice President Joe Biden.
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