WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama says the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., obligates the nation to finally act to reduce gun violence. He's outlined only a broad plan so far, leaving specific proposals until next month.
A look at Obama's call for action Wednesday:
Obama urged the new Congress that convenes Jan. 3 to vote rapidly on measures that he says a majority of Americans support:
_Ban the sale of military-style assault weapons.
_Ban the sale of high-capacity magazines.
_Require criminal background checks for all gun buyers by removing loopholes that cover some sales, such as at gun shows.
_Confirm his nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after years of delay.
Obama assigned Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to come up with other concrete proposals, due no later than January. In addition to gun restrictions, Obama said Biden would consider how to:
_ Improve access to mental health care.
_ Protect schools.
_ Change an American culture that glorifies guns and violence.
Obama said he was looking for ways not only to deter mass shootings but also "to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day," killing 10,000 people each year. He noted other deaths that occurred Friday, the day of the Newtown attack, and in the days since:
_ A Memphis, Tenn., police officer, Martoiya Lang, was killed Friday morning during a shootout that began when officers arrived to search a home as part of a drug investigation.
_ Jessica Corinne Kenny was shot late Friday while working at the concierge desk of a Las Vegas casino. Police said the man who killed her committed suicide with the same revolver.
_ A man who opened fire in a Birmingham, Ala., hospital Saturday morning, wounding a police officer and two employees, was fatally shot by another police officer.
_ A 4-year-old boy, Aydan Perea, was shot while sitting in a car outside a Kansas City, Mo., home Saturday night by what police described as gang-related gunfire.
_ Two Topeka, Kan., police officers _ David Gogian and Jeff Atherly _ were gunned down Sunday night while investigating possible drug activity in a grocery parking lot. Police said their killer fled and later died in a shootout with police.
SECOND AMENDMENT QUESTIONS
The meaning of the Constitution's Second Amendment has been hotly debated for decades. It reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
The Supreme Court has ruled, beginning in 2008, that Americans have the right to own a gun for self-defense. Previously, the Second Amendment had often been interpreted as protecting the right of states to keep an armed militia, rather than an individual's right to gun ownership.
Obama said he believes the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms but also allows for gun regulation.
The Supreme Court's ruling signaled that some gun control laws could survive legal challenges, but the justices have yet to resolve which regulations are permissible.
While acknowledging that gun rights stir deeply held passions, Obama said there are sensible steps that can be taken "if those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday."
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