Republican reaction was strong and swift on Wednesday to President Barack Obama’s proposals to stem gun violence — with legislators saying they would not back a ban on assault weapons or on high-capacity ammunition magazines.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said an assault weapon ban "has already been tried and failed."
Graham added, "When it comes to protecting our schools, I believe the best way to confront a homicidal maniac who enters a school is for them to be met by armed resistance from a trained professional.”
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said none of the Obama proposals introduced would have prevented the Dec. 14 bloodshed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 school children and six adults were killed.
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“Nothing the President is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook," Rubio said in a statement published by Talking Points Memo. "President Obama is targeting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence.
“Rolling back responsible citizens’ rights is not the proper response to tragedies committed by criminals and the mentally ill," Rubio said.
Texas Rep. Steve Stockman said in a statement, “Gun bans and anti-gun laws have always led to one thing — more gun violence,”
“We owe it to innocent people to make this country as safe as possible," he added.
“Sadly, in President Obama’s announcement, every tragedy he mentioned was either in a state that aggressively restricts the right to keep and bear arms or was in a location that banned guns completely.”
Stockman, who was re-elected to the House in November after three terms out of Washington, had earlier threatened to file articles of impeachment against the president because of what he saw as an attack on the Second Amendment.
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Obama’s measures amounted to an "executive power grab that may please his political base but will not solve the problems at hand."
Obama, Priebus told the Wall Street Journal, paid "lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights, but took actions that disregard the Second Amendment and the legislative process."
Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas agreed.
“The Second Amendment is non-negotiable,” Huelskamp charged in a statement. “The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama’s disdain for the Second Amendment and the Constitution’s limits on his power.”
And House Speaker John Boehner was more reserved in his reaction to the Obama plan.
“House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations," Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel told Politico. "And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that."
In a presentation at the White House, President Obama proposed the most ambitious set of gun-control proposals in decades — calling for a renewed assault-weapons ban and limitations on the ammunition magazines.
Obama also set forth 23 executive actions, including ordering agencies to share data for background checks and addressing mental-health issues, that he signed into law immediately after his speech. Together, the orders are expected to cost $500 million in fiscal 2014, Politico reports.
The president also called on Congress to approve legislation that would require background checks for all gun buyers and restore a 10-round limit for magazines. He ordered a review of standards for gun locks, tracing of guns recovered in criminal investigations — and a study on the causes and prevention of gun violence.
“I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality,” Obama said of his proposals. The event featured children from across the nation who the White House said had written to the president after the Newtown shootings.
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Featuring the schoolchildren led radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh to label the White House event as “the children-as-human-shields show.”
“I’ve been watching the children-as-human-shields show that is now going on at the White House,” Limbaugh said, according to a transcript of his afternoon program. “Boy, these guys are somber.
“Kids cheer and the president starts out reading some letters from the kids,” Limbaugh added. “Gotta do what the kids want. Gotta answer all their letters to Santa Claus. Gotta do everything they want. It's stunning. You look at what's happening in the country.”
Obama and his congressional allies face strong opposition, particularly in the Republican-controlled House, to his legislative proposals. His Senate supporters lack the 60 votes needed to advance major legislation there, according to Bloomberg News.
In fact, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr was among the first GOP members of the Upper Chamber to come out against Obama’s measures, saying in a statement: “I will fight any effort to further infringe on the Second Amendment rights of American citizens, whether it is legislation or executive action by the president.
“I am open to having a conversation about ways in which our nation can address mental-health issues and reduce violence, but I will not stand by while the President and others try to restrict the rights of law-abiding American citizens.”
Obama’s proposals resulted from Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on anti-gun violence, which held meetings with a wide range of groups last week in Washington.
Calling Obama’s plan an “anti-gun sneak attack,” Stockman pledged to “lead the fight to defeat the president’s dangerous legislative proposals.”
“I will seek legislation overturning the orders,” he added. “I will seek legislation barring funds to enforce the orders. I will seek legislation to cut White House funding should the president issue and enforce such orders. I will support legal efforts to overturn the orders in court.”
Oklahoma Rep. Jim Inhofe called some of the executive-order measures “common-sense changes that are within the president’s current powers to implement,” but also pledged to uphold the Second Amendment.
“I will adamantly oppose any executive order that I believe infringes upon duly enacted laws by the Congress or on our Constitutional rights,” he said in a statement. “Where I do disagree with the President is on his recommendations for laws Congress should pass.
“We know from experience that an assault-weapons ban will have no meaningful effect on gun violence, as many of the changes that are implemented by such a ban are cosmetic in nature.
“Statistics demonstrate that a ban on particular weapons will not significantly decrease crime,” Inhofe’s statement continued. “Such a ban will, however, significantly decrease our rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Rubio argued that the real problem with gun violence in America lay at the feet of the mentally ill who partake in it, and that the White House should focus on instead on keeping guns out of their hands.
One of Obama's proposals calls for more research on mental illness as it relates to gun violence.
And another House freshman, Florida Rep. Trey Radel, said impeachment should be an option regarding Obama’s gun-control agenda.
“What I would say to Democrats who are friends with President Obama right now is, ask yourself, what are you going to do when a Republican gets in, and you may not agree with or like very much, and begins doing the same thing?” he asked in an interview with the Shark Tank website on Wednesday.
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