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Gun limits

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President Obama has a daunting task ahead persuading Congress that the most sweeping gun-control proposals in a generation will reduce gun violence.

Surrounded by children to evoke memories of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre a month earlier, the president Wednesday unveiled a $500 million plan to curb gun violence. It came a day after New York state passed one of the nation’s strictest gun control laws restricting military-style assault weapons.

The president’s list of major legislative proposals that must get through Congress would reinstate the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004, limit high-capacity clips to 10 rounds, expand criminal background checks to gun shows and private sales, and enact a new gun trafficking law directed at straw-purchasers who buy weapons on behalf of those not eligible to have them.

Opponents say a 10-year assault weapons ban enacted under President Clinton did little to reduce gun crimes while a background check would not have prevented the Newtown shooting since the gunman used weapons his mother had legally purchased.

Among the 23 executive actions that can be taken without congressional approval, President Obama ordered federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations and ordered a review of safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.

He lifted the ban preventing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from researching gun violence, which could lead to a better understanding of its causes, but he must get congressional approval for the requested $14 million for research. He also lifted a ban on doctors questioning patients about guns in their homes, which ought to be left to doctors and patients to decide in the confidentiality of the examining room.

President Obama called for improved access to mental health services and requested $150 million to hire more counselors and resource officers in schools, an approach endorsed even by gun-rights advocates.

The president will have to, as he said, “put everything I’ve got into this” to get his package through a Congress that did not embrace his plan Wednesday. In the House, an aide to Speaker John Boehner indicated they would let the Senate take the lead in passing a bill for House consideration. The legislative proposal received a tepid welcome from Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, a gun-rights backer who said the Senate will consider legislation but he wasn’t “going to go through a bunch of these gyrations just to say we’ve done something.”

President Obama must also overcome a well-organized campaign by the influential National Rifle Association, which has been successful in blocking stricter gun controls. In the ensuing debate, the Obama administration has to show how the president’s proposed restrictions would have prevented Newtown and reduce gun violence without infringing on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.

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