WASHINGTON (WWJ/AP) – Setting the stage for what’s expected to be a fierce battle in Congress, President Barack Obama, on Wednesday outlined a sweeping $500 million program to curb gun violence across the nation.

Obama used his presidential powers to issue 23 orders that don’t require congressional approval.

“If you want to buy a gun, whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller, you should at least have to show you are not a felon, or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. This is common sense,” said President Obama.

The President asking Congress to expand background checks on gun buyers to include private sales and is using his executive authority to increase the information available in data banks in the background check system. The White House calls background checks the most efficient and effective way to keep guns away from dangerous individuals.

Obama wants Congress to close loopholes that permit private gun transactions to occur without background checks. The White House says nearly 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by private individuals now exempt from checking the backgrounds of buyers.

Obama is also ordering federal agencies to make “relevant data” available to the federal background check system and to remove barriers that might prevent states from providing information, particularly mental health data, for background checks.

In addition, the President is asking Congress to restore a ban on military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines.

“While reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldn’t be a divisive one,” Obama said. “To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act. And Congress must act soon.”

Speaking to an audience that included family members of those killed a month ago in the deadly massing shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary  in Connecticut, as well as children who wrote to the President in the wake of the incident, Obama said, “For all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm, let’s do the right thing.”

WWJ Newsradio 950 listeners are split on the issue of gun control, although we had more callers Wednesday morning who were opposed to stricter laws.  Hear are some of the comments coming in to the newsroom phone line:

– “I am a private firearms collector, and it’s my right to sell a firearm without any restrictions for the past 200 years; just like I sell my golf clubs or my automobile without a background check. This would be an infringement on my rights.”

– “On the streets, anything’s available. If you’ve got the dollars you can buy.”

– “How many more people have to die before we do something about this?”

– “I’m absolutely opposed to any restrictions on the type of firearms that American citizens are allowed to use.”

– “Gun control doesn’t work.”

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), a member of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said our nation has “suffered far too much tragedy at the hands of gun violence.”

In a statement issued following the President’s statements on Wednesday, Levin said the massacre at Sandy Hook must serve as a call to action. “President Obama made a powerful appeal for Americans to come together to take reasonable action to combat gun violence in America.  I strongly support the administration’s legislative proposals …  I also strongly support the President taking immediate executive action to strengthen law enforcement’s ability to prevent gun violence, to bolster access to mental health services and to increase safety and counseling resources at schools.

“Each one of us must consider whether action is required as if one of our family members had been involved in the tragedies that I believe have forever shifted the ground upon which these legislative initiatives are considered,” Levin said.

More on this story on our sister site, CBSDC.com

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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