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Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:45 PM   |   Comments

Obama unveils gun-law changes

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Wednesday called for reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines to help curb gun violence.

Obama signed 23 executive orders, immediately following a White House announcement, that he called "commonsense measures" to help police, mental health professionals and schools to take action to protect Americans -- but noted the "most important changes" require congressional action.

Slightly more than a month after Adam Lanza took his mother's weapons and invaded Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. -- killing 20 first graders and six school staff members before killing himself -- Obama called on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons, limit magazines to 10 rounds and implement universal background checks on gun buyers.

"If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that we can save, then we have to do it," Obama said.

He also called for more police officers to be hired.

Obama said he realizes no one law or set of laws can eliminate every "senseless act," action needs to be taken. He said he respects the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, and the long tradition of gun ownership in the United States. He also noted there are "millions of responsible gun owners."

Obama urged Americans to contact their congressional representatives and ask them whether they support reforms and if they say no to ask why.

"The only way to change is if the American people demand it," Obama said.

Vice President Joe Biden, who headed a task force that presented proposals to Obama, said there has been a fundamental shift if American attitudes toward guns since the Sandy Hook carnage Dec. 14.

"I have never seen the nation's conscience so shaken," Biden said.

"The president has made clear that he intends to take a comprehensive approach," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters ahead of the announcement.

The announcement was attended by children who wrote to Obama after Sandy Hook.

Obama called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes of gun violence, saying, "We don't benefit from ignorance," and called on Congress to confirm a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a job that has been vacant for six years.


NRA: Obama 'elitist hypocrite' on guns

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The National Rifle Association posted a video online calling U.S. President Barack Obama an "elitist hypocrite" on gun control.

The 35-second video -- posted Tuesday night before the president unveiled his sweeping legislative package aimed at reducing gun violence in America -- criticizes Obama for accepting armed Secret Service protection for his two daughters in their school, while he opposes more armed guards in all schools.

"Are the president's kids more important than yours?" an announcer asks. "Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?

"Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he's just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours."

White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement criticizing the NRA for bringing Obama's children, Sasha and Malia, into the argument.

"Most Americans agree that a president's children should not be used as pawns in a political fight," Carney said. "But to go so far as to make the safety of the President's children the subject of an attack ad is repugnant and cowardly."

The NRA said in a statement anyone who "thinks the ad is about President Obama's daughters" is missing the point or "trying to change the subject," the liberal Talking Points Memo website reported.

"This ad is about keeping our children safe," the NRA statement said. "And the President said he was skeptical about the NRA proposal to put policemen in all schools in this country. Yet he and his family are beneficiaries of multiple law enforcement officers surrounding them 24 hours a day."

The NRA -- following the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. -- proposed placing armed guards in all U.S. schools.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll indicated 55 percent of respondents nationwide said they support armed guards in schools.

Obama announced proposals at the White House Wednesday intended to reduce gun violence, including a call for Congress to enact laws requiring universal background checks for gun buyers, a renewed ban on military-style assault weapons and limiting to 10 bullets the number of rounds of ammunition a magazine may hold.

He called for putting "more cops back on the job, and on our streets" and said he would take steps to help schools hire "resource officers" -- but did not specifically say whether that meant police officers or armed guards.


Interior's Salazar to return to Colorado

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will step down from the post he has held for four years to return to Colorado, the While House announced Wednesday.

"As the Secretary of the Interior, Ken has helped usher in a new era of conservation for our nation's land, water, and wildlife," President Obama said in a statement.

The president said Salazar had expanded "responsible development" of U.S. domestic energy resources and made "historic strides" in resolving long-standing disputes with Native American tribes.

"I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier, ushering in a conservation agenda for the 21st century, and honoring our word to the nation's first Americans," Salazar said in a statement released by the Interior Department.

Leading the Interior Department "is perhaps the most wonderful job of any cabinet position in the United States," Salazar said in December.

Salazar, 57, was a U.S. senator representing Colorado when Obama picked him in 2008 to lead Interior, The Denver Post reported.

Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had indicated they wanted Salazar to stay on, but he wanted to spend more time with his family. Salazar and his wife are the primary caretakers of their 5-year-old autistic granddaughter, who is enrolled in a special school.

Salazar is expected to step down in March.


Sanford to run for Congress

COLUMBIA, S.C., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Ex-South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who made headlines for going to Argentina to meet his mistress, said he will seek the congressional seat Tim Scott vacated.

"I am running because our country's future is at stake if we don't get our hands around runaway government spending in Washington," Sanford, a Republican, said in a statement Wednesday. "And, given our nation's long-term financial problems, we need more who have shown themselves to be leaders in standing up to the big spenders, regardless of party."

Sanford's successor, Gov. Nikki Haley, appointed Scott, a Republican, to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Jim DeMint left to lead the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Sanford's former wife, Jenny Sanford, announced Monday that she would not run for the House seat. Other declared or possible candidates include state Sen. Larry Grooms, state House Majority Whip Jimmy Merrill and state Rep. Peter McCoy, The Washington Post said.

Sanford, who also made headlines for refusing President Obama's stimulus money, said he was running for Congress because the U.S. economy has reached a "day of reckoning," National Review Online reported Tuesday.

"It seems that we're averting a new 'fiscal cliff' or crisis every few months these days, and what the numbers point to is that the trend is going to intensify," he said

He told National Review people shouldn't judge him by what happened before he left the governor's office.

"I think that the bigger issue is, don't judge any one person by their best day; don't judge them by their worst day," he said. "Look at the totality, the whole of their life, and make judgments accordingly."

In 2009 it was revealed that Sanford left the state to fly to Argentina for the liaison even though his office said he was elsewhere. A legislative committee voted to censure but not impeach him and he served out the remainder of his term.

The Republican primary was set for March 19 and a runoff, April 2 if necessary. The general election is May 7.


Marine's trial set on desecration charges

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The court-martial of a Marine accused of urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has been set for Tuesday at Camp Lejeune, N.C., officials say.

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola is the latest soldier to face charges after a video surfaced online in July 2011 of U.S. troops urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan, WWAY-TV, Wilmington, N.C., reported Wednesday.

He is charged with desecrating remains, posing for unofficial photographs with human casualties and failing to properly supervise lower-ranking Marines.

Another Marine pleaded guilty last month. Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined. He also was reduced in rank and forfeited part of his pay for six months.

Administrative punishments were handed to three other Marines.


Hillary calls Clinton 'my first husband'

PALM SPRINGS, Calif., Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton says his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is so healthy she calls him her "first husband" because she'll outlive him.

"She's always been very, very healthy and she has very low blood pressure, very low standing heartbeat. I tell her that, you know, she's still got time to have three more husbands after me. So, I think she'll live to be 120," the former president said during a health conference in Palm Springs, Calif. "She refers to me as her first husband. Because I told her once she's going to live to be 120 and have time for plenty more."

Clinton also offered advice for his wife, who is leaving her post and is widely considered a 2016 presidential contender, despite her comments to the contrary, Politico reported Wednesday.

"My advice is that she should rest up and decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life," he said.

The secretary of State recently was released from a New York hospital after being treated for a blood clot near her brain, following a concussion.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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