President Obama's sweeping plan to address gun violence was met Wednesday with swift and stiff resistance by gun rights advocates and conservative lawmakers, setting up a tense debate that will be held on the airwaves, in congressional hearing rooms and in communities across America.
The package proposed Wednesday is the most comprehensive in decades. The president called for a new, tougher assault weapons ban and a 10-round limit on magazines, as well as legislation to bar the possession of armor-piercing bullets and require criminal background checks for nearly all gun sales.
Separately, he approved 23 executive actions while calling for additional funding to address mental health and school security.
The movement comes in the wake of last month's school massacre in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed.
"If there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try," said Obama, joined at the White House by four children who wrote to the president following the Newtown, Conn., tragedy.
But several lawmakers said the president's proposals in large part would not have prevented a shooting like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They accused the president of glossing over potential factors like the entertainment industry and the country's mental health system, making clear that the legislative proposals could face an uphill climb.
"Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook. President Obama is targeting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said. "Rolling back responsible citizens' rights is not the proper response to tragedies committed by criminals and the mentally ill."
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said the proposals would merely invite "drawn-out court battles."
"Instead of a thoughtful, open and deliberate conversation, President Obama is attempting to institute new restrictions on a fundamental constitutional right," he said.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in a written statement, said: "Guns require a finger to pull the trigger. The sad young man who did that in Newtown was clearly haunted by demons, and no gun law could have saved the children in Sandy Hook Elementary from his terror."
But both sides of the debate were preparing Wednesday for a drawn-out national debate. The National Rifle Association is preparing to launch a major ad campaign and has already started running one ad. The group said Wednesday it would work with Congress on a "bipartisan basis" but that "attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation."
The NRA said: "Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected, and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy" as a result of the administration's plan.