President Barack Obama urged a reluctant Congress on Wednesday to require background checks for all gun sales and ban both military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines in an emotion-laden plea to curb gun violence in America, though he acknowledged he's in for an uphill battle.
The president's sweeping, $500 million plan, coming one month after the school massacre in Connecticut, marks the most comprehensive effort to tighten gun laws in nearly two decades. But his proposals, most of which are opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association and its allies in Washington, face a doubtful future in a divided Congress where Republicans control the House of Representaives.
Seeking to circumvent at least some opposition, Obama signed 23 executive actions on Wednesday, including orders to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research on gun violence. But he acknowledged that the steps he took on his own would have less impact than the broad measures requiring approval from Congress.
``To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act,'' Obama said, speaking at a White House ceremony with school children and their parents. ``And Congress must act soon.''
The president's announcements capped a swift and wide-ranging effort, led by Vice President Joe Biden, to respond to the deaths of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. But Obama's gun control proposals set him up for a tough political fight with Congress as he starts his second term, when he'll need Republican support to meet three looming fiscal deadlines and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Many Democrats say an assault weapons ban faces the toughest road in Congress. Obama wants lawmakers to reinstate the expired 1994 ban on the high-grade weapons, and strengthen the measure to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the prohibition by making cosmetic changes to banned guns.
The president is also likely to face opposition to his call for Congress to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
But Democrats are hopeful they can build consensus around the president's call for universal background checks. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says 40 percent of gun sales are conducted with no criminal background checks, such as in some instances at gun shows or by private sellers over the Internet or through classified ads.
The NRA is opposed to all three measures. In a statement Wednesday, the gun