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VIDEO: Obama calls for new gun control measures, including more background checks, assault weapons ban (Poll)

President Barack Obama speaks on January 1, 2013 at the White House in Washington DC. At left is Vice-President Joe Biden.
President Barack Obama speaks on January 1, 2013 at the White House in Washington DC. At left is Vice-President Joe Biden.

UPDATE 9:20 a.m.: Without waiting for Congress, President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a sweeping $500 million program to curb gun violence, setting up a fight over universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting.

Obama also used his presidential powers to issue 23 orders (see below) that don't require congressional approval. The largely incremental executive steps include requiring federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a fulltime director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.

But the president, speaking at the White House, acknowledged the most effective actions must be taken by lawmakers.

"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act," Obama said. "And Congress must act soon."

Obama was flanked by children who wrote him letters about gun violence in the weeks following the Newtown shooting. Families of the 20 children killed in the massacre, as well as survivors, were also in the audience along with law enforcement officers and members of Congress.

"This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe," Obama said. "This is how we will be judged."

The president based his proposals on recommendations from an administration-wide task force led by Vice President Joe Biden.

RELATED: California lawmakers proposals to thwart gun violence

PREVIOUSLY: Families of the victims of last month's shooting attack at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school have been invited to the White House Wednesday to see President Barack Obama outline an effort aimed at reducing gun violence.

The President's speech is scheduled to begin at 8:55 a.m. PST and can be heard live on 89.3 FM, online through the live stream or view it live below.

Obama's  ideas include bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines - but he would need congressional approval for that. He's also taking steps on his own, including efforts to boost availability of mental health services.

He may also order the Justice Department to crack down on people who lie on gun-sale background checks.

In advance of today's event, the National Rifle Association has released an online video calling Obama an "elitist hypocrite" for having armed secret Service agents protect his daughters at school while not committing to installing armed guards in all schools.

There's a new Associated Press-GfK poll that indicates nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the shootings in Connecticut. Majorities of those surveyed favor a nationwide bank on military-style, rapid-fire weapons, and limits on gun violence depicted in video games, movies and TV shows.


The following are the 23 Executive Actions the President announced Wednesday:

Source: White House