U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced 23 executive orders to tighten gun controls, among them prohibiting the sale of assault weapons, mandatory criminal background checks on all gun purchasers and increased medical coverage for mental health issues.

The measures, which do not require congressional approval, were announced by Obama in response to the Dec. 14 massacre at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and eight adults died.

"We can't put this off any longer," Obama said, adding that he intends to use "whatever weight this office holds" to implement the proposals.

"I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms) while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale," said the president.

In addition, Obama will restrict access to high-capacity ammunition clips and urge states to share their databases on criminal records on the federal level.

Moreover, the plan will strengthen security at elementary schools and high schools, will provide funds to hire about 1,000 school advisers and psychologists and update emergency plans.

Obama announced the measures after receiving suggestions from the team he established headed by Vice President Joe Biden that interviewed members of civil society, security officials and members of the education sector.

The executive orders also include increased budgetary resources to facilitate access to mental health care for students and young people via training 5,000 medical professionals specializing in that area. EFE