US president Barack Obama urged a reluctant Congress on Wednesday to require background checks for all gun sales and ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The $500 million (£310m) plan, coming one month after the school massacre in Connecticut, marks the most comprehensive effort to tighten gun laws in nearly two decades.
But his proposals, most of which are opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) and its allies, face a doubtful future in a divided Congress.
Seeking to circumvent opposition, Mr Obama signed 23 executive orders on Wednesday to make more federal data available for background checks and end a freeze on government research.
A law was passed in 1996 banning the use of taxpayers' money on researching the causes and prevention of gun violence.
But the president acknowledged that the steps he had taken would have less impact than broad measures requiring approval from Congress.
"To make a real and lasting difference, Congress too must act," he said.
Mr Obama's proposals set him up for a tough political fight with the legislature.
He wants to reinstate the expired 1994 ban on high-grade weapons and strengthen the measure to prevent manufacturers circumventing the prohibition with cosmetic changes to banned guns.
But the NRA has opposed all three measures.
In a statement Wednesday, the gun lobby claimed that only "honest, law-abiding gun owners" will be affected and the nation's children "will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
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