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President Obama pushes ahead with gun control -

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ELEANOR HALL: The US president Barack Obama is calling for urgent changes to curb gun violence in response to the weekend school massacre in Connecticut.

He said he wants to see what he described as "concrete proposals" within weeks, and the president promised to use all the power of his office to tackle the politically charged issue.

From Washington, Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: As funeral processions rolled through Newtown for a third straight day, the president revealed the first steps of his gun control plan.

BARACK OBAMA: That's why I've asked the vice president to lead an effort that includes members of my cabinet and outside organisations to come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January, proposals that I then intend to push without delay.

KIM LANDERS: The massacre of so many children, all of whom were just six or seven years old, has rocked the United States, reviving the debate over gun control in a nation where the right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution and fiercely defended by many.

Speaking with a new sense of urgency, Barack Obama senses now is the time to act and he wants to be able to outline his plan by the time he delivers his State of the Union address in late January.

BARACK OBAMA: And I would hope that our memories aren't so short that what we saw in Newtown isn't lingering with us, that we don't remain passionate about it only a month later.

KIM LANDERS: The president warns it'll take commitment, compromise and courage to make changes.

BARACK OBAMA: If those of us who were sent here to serve the public trust can summon even one tiny iota of the courage those teachers, that principal in Newtown summoned on Friday, if cooperation and commonsense prevail, then I'm convinced we can make a sensible intelligent way to make the United States of America a safer, stronger place for our children to learn and to grow.

KIM LANDERS: There's already been a flurry of activity in Congress, with several Democratic politicians planning to introduce various pieces of gun control legislation.

Dr Stephen Farnsworth, who's a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, thinks there's not much time to harness the mood for change.

STEPHEN FARNSWORTH: America is very much a short attention span country and it may be a few weeks from now we'll be talking about a snowstorm that is particularly large, a financial crisis if the fiscal cliff issue doesn't get resolved, or some other thing that we can't anticipate that may draw our attention to some other topic.

And so you absolutely have to move very quickly if you're going to try to do this uphill struggle of changing America's gun laws.

KIM LANDERS: The White House says the package of proposals is also likely to include measures that touch on mental health initiatives, and as the president says, a "culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence".

Craig Anderson is a professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University.

CRAIG ANDERSON: The research literature is very clear, that high exposure to violent video games leads to an increased probability of physically aggressive behaviour and violent behaviour. It's not a huge factor, but it's also not the smallest of the risk factors that are known.

KIM LANDERS: Professor Anderson says more education is needed for parents.

CRAIG ANDERSON: Having conservations with their kids about how to deal with conflict in the real world and how that's different from the way that entertainment media portray dealing with conflict. But again that conversation frequently doesn't happen and in large part, it doesn't happen because the media industry, you know, the entertainment media, have been so successful at keeping the truth, you know, the scientific truth, from the general public.

KIM LANDERS: Dr Farnsworth fears such complex issues as violence and mass culture will muddy the waters in the efforts to introduce new gun regulations and he warns there's still a lot of resistance to changing gun laws in the US.

STEPHEN FARNSWORTH: My guess is that the legislation that emerges will be something along the lines of a restriction with respect to large capacity magazines, the ability to fire 30 or more rounds before reloading a new magazine, and perhaps assault weapons banned.

Things like that that may be moving around the edges of gun control but make no mistake about it, the number of guns in this country and the guns that are already out there, I do not anticipate anything along the lines of the kind of buybacks that have been used by other countries like Australia.

KIM LANDERS: There have been some signs of an easing in Washington's entrenched reluctance to seriously consider new federal restrictions on weapons.

The president now wants words to lead to action.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.