WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed the most sweeping set of gun control measures in decades, setting up a bitter confrontation with gun lobbyists and US lawmakers over one of the most contentious issues dividing American society.
The President made the announcement two days after receiving recommendations from an anti-gun violence working group that was assembled following the Dec 14 Newtown school shooting in which a gunman killed 20 children and six adults.
Mr Obama, who gave gun control issues a wide berth in his first term, appealed to ordinary Americans to back his proposals and to put pressure on US legislators to take action to curb further gun violence.
"I will put everything I got into this…but the only way we can change is if the American people demand it," Mr Obama said during a press conference at the White House.
Mr Obama spoke flanked on stage by four children who had written letters to him in the aftermath of the school shooting expressing concern about gun violence. Several relatives of the young children who were killed in the shooting were sitting in the audience.
He called the reforms "commonsense measures that enjoy the support of the American people" but acknowledged any new gun legislation would not be easy to enact or implement.
Mr Obama called on Congress to quickly pass legislation to prohibit assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as to implement universal background checks on gun buyers.
The President ended the press conference by signing 23 separate executive orders, which do not require approval by Congress, to curb gun violence.
They include strengthening the existing system for background checks on gun buyers, improving federal research into gun violence, and enhancing school safety programmes and mental health services.