'Time for the President to stand up and lead … this should be his number one agenda'


As President Obama prepared to speak at a vigil in Newtown last night, there were growing calls for him to make good on his promise of "meaningful action" on gun control.

Speaking to NBC's Meet the Press, Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she would introduce a bill to ban assault weapons on the opening day of the new Congress next month. The bill, she explained, would ban "the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession" of assault weapons and magazines that carry more than 10 bullets.

In his statement after the shootings in Connecticut on Friday, Mr Obama argued for "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics." New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long supported stricter gun laws, said yesterday that it was "time for the President to stand up and lead", and called for an assault weapons ban.

"This should be his number one agenda. He's the president of the United States, and if he does nothing during his second term, something like 48,000 Americans will be killed with illegal guns," Mr Bloomberg said. "That is roughly the number of Americans killed in the whole Vietnam war." Democrat lawmakers have shied away from discussing gun control in recent years, fearful of incurring the wrath of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is considered the country's most powerful lobby group. But yesterday senior Democrats led the demands for a renewal of the assault weapons ban, among them New York Senator Chuck Schumer; Dick Durbin, the Senator from Illinois who, as Majority Whip, is the second most powerful Democrat in the Senate; and former Vice-Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman. Lieberman told Fox News Sunday: "The strongest conceivable gun control laws won't stop all acts of violence, but… the stronger our gun control laws are, the fewer acts of violence – including mass violence – will happen in our society."

Not all of Washington agrees, however. According to the programme's host, David Gregory, no supporters of so-called "gun rights" were willing to appear on Meet the Press.

Further developments highlighted the urgency of the debate. Authorities in Indiana said a man they named as 60-year-old Von Meyer who had 47 guns and ammunition in his home had been arrested, after allegedly threatening to kill people at an elementary school near his home near Chicago.

And in Newtown, the scene of the massacre, worshippers paying tribute to those killed on Friday hurriedly left a church after someone phoned in a threat, but police later said nothing dangerous was found.

The threat interrupted a crowded Mass, sent worshippers hurrying from the church and touched off a large police response.

Republican congressman Louie Gohmert said the problem was too few guns. "Every mass killing in recent history has been in a place where guns were prohibited," he said.