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Obama marks Newtown school shooting anniversary with call for gun control

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[December 14, 2013] WASHINGTON (Reuters)  President Barack Obama marked the anniversary of the Newtown school shootings on Saturday by calling for tighter gun control and expanded mental health care.

"We haven't yet done enough to make our communities and our country safer," the president said in his weekly address. "We have to do more to keep dangerous people from getting their hands on a gun so easily. We have to do more to heal troubled minds."

The president did not mention the shooting at a Colorado high school on Friday where a student armed with a shotgun wounded at least two classmates before apparently taking his own life. The president's address is recorded in advance.

Obama is due later Saturday to observe a moment of silence at the White House and light candles in memory of the 20 children and six school workers who died in a shooting at a Connecticut elementary school a year ago.

Legislation that would have extended background checks for gun sales made online and at gun shows and to ban rapid-firing "assault" weapons failed to clear the U.S. Senate this year. Opponents argued it is essential to hold the line on protecting Americans' right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

State legislatures have been more aggressive in enacting gun control legislation but those measures have faced some backlash.

Colorado passed gun control measures, but gun rights activists used recall elections to oust two state senators who backed them.

The White House has proposed spending $130 million to help teachers and other people who work with youth recognize the signs of mental illness and help people get treatment, but Congress has not yet allocated those funds.

So the administration will spend $50 million from its Health and Human Services budget to help community health centers hire more mental health professionals and provide more services and another $50 million from the Agriculture Department budget to improve mental health facilities in rural areas, the White House has said.

(Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; editing by Lisa Shumaker)

[ 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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