WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama today will announce the most aggressive and expansive national gun-control agenda in generations as he presses Congress to mandate background checks for all firearm buyers and prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.
The announcement will set off a fierce confrontation with Congress over an issue that has riven American society for decades. Obama's far-reaching firearms agenda has at best tepid support from his party leaders and puts him at loggerheads with Democratic centrists.
Days before his second inauguration, Obama is seeking to drive the guns debate in a way that contrasts with the accommodating approach he often took during his first term.
"Yes, we can reduce gun violence, but it's something we have to do together," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday. "It's something that cannot be done by a president alone. It can't be done by a single community alone or a mayor or a governor or by Congress alone. We all have to work together."
Obama will begin this effort in the presence of children who wrote him letters after last month's mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The broad package Obama will announce will include efforts to stop bullying and boost availability of mental health services. It's expected to include more than a dozen steps the president can take on his own through executive action. Those measures will provide a pathway for skirting opposing lawmakers, but they will be limited in scope, and in some cases, focused simply on enforcing existing laws.
But Congress would have to approve the bans on assault weapons and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets, along with a requirement for universal background checks on gun buyers. Some gun control advocates worry that opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats, as well as the National Rifle Association, will be too great to overcome.
"We're not going to get an outright ban," Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., said of limits on assault weapons. Still, McCarthy, a leading voice in Congress in favor of gun control, said she would keep pushing for a ban and hoped Obama would as well.
The NRA released an online video Tuesday that called Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having Secret Service agents protect his daughters at school while not committing to armed guards in all schools.
White House officials have emphasized that no single measure — even an assault weapons ban — would solve the scourge of gun violence. But without such a ban, or other sweeping Congress-approved measures, it's unclear whether executive actions alone can make any noticeable difference.
Obama will present a three-part plan focused on gun violence, education and mental health, the Associated Press reported, citing a lobbyist briefed on the proposals.
The president will call for a focus on universal background checks. Some 40 percent of gun sales take place without background checks, including those by private sellers at gun shows or over the Internet, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The president will call for banning assault weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds or fewer, and also propose a federal statute to stop "straw man" purchases of guns and crack down on trafficking rings. He'll order federal agencies to conduct more research on gun use and crimes, the lobbyist said.
Information from the Washington Post and Associated Press was used in this report.