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New firearm reform proposals in wake of Sandy shooting

President Obama has proposed a number of new restrictions on firearms, involving a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and a limitation on the size of ammunition magazines in the wake of the gun massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT that claimed the lives of 20 children and six school administrators. Gunrights groups, in turn, are accusing the president of disregarding the constitutional rights of American gun-owners.

On Jan. 16, President Obama highlighted gun control responsibility, delivering a series of executive orders. His plans included criminal background checks on all gun sales, a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, and a 10-round limit on all ammunition magazines.“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,” President Obama said. “And Congress must act soon.”

President Obama stated that gun control proponents “have to do a little more listening” to second-amendment advocates in an interview with The New Republic, while also acknowledging that he has a “profound respect” for hunting as a pastime, and urging those who are in favor of stricter gun laws not to dismiss that tradition completely without considering the reasoning of gun owners who hunt for sport.

Asked if he has ever shot a gun, the President said, “Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time. … Not the girls, but often times guests of mine go up there. And I have a profound respect for the traditions of hunting that trace back in this country for generations. And I think those who dismiss that out of hand make a big mistake.”

Acknowledging the cultural divide and clashing opinions on the issue, President Obama said, “Part of being able to move this forward is understanding the reality of guns in urban areas are very different from the realities of guns in rural areas.”

“If you grew up and your dad gave you a hunting rifle when you were ten, and you went out and spent the day with him and your uncles, and that became part of your family’s traditions, you can see why you’d be pretty protective of that,” the President said. “So it’s trying to bridge those gaps that I think is going to be part of the biggest task over the next several months.

Junior Lauryn Matovich said, “There’s always a positive and negative reaction to everything. There’s always going to be the people that own guns and are protective of that and use them non-violently. Then there are people who are frightened by the rare but real experiences that have happened that don’t want guns to be available at all. I think Obama is trying to make the point that he understands this and does not want to single anyone out for their beliefs on the issue.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who is responsible for chairing the task force that generates the policy ideas that Obama has proposed, recently traveled to Richmond, VA, to consult with experts and public officials on the way forward.

“We talked about the need to expand mental health capacity across the country. We talked about access and we talked about resources,” Biden said. “But most the focus was on, what are the recommendations from these professionals about how we can detect earlier than later those folks who have the propensity” to commit acts of gun violence. Biden said that the nation “has an obligation to act” after witnessing “what happened up in Newtown – beautiful little babies, six and seven years old, riddled — riddled — with bullets.”

Stirring up further controversy, the White House recently released a photo of President Barack Obama firing a gun, two days before he headed to Minnesota to discuss gun control.

The White House photo released is dated Aug. 4, 2012, and shows Obama shooting at clay targets on the range at Camp David.

Alexandra Leal, sophomore weighed in on the photo, saying, “I don’t see the controversy. He’s in a controlled area, and doing this as a hobby. This photo does not contradict anything that he’s been saying about gun control laws. He is doing this as a hobby, and has acknowledged the importance of this activity as a pastime. A major part of what he has been saying is that there must be stricter mental health screenings to those purchasing guns, not getting rid of American’s gun rights altogether.”

While the ideas regarding gun control in the US appear to be making progress, the debate still continues and it remains to be seen what concrete decisions Obama will enforce on this heated subject.