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Joe Biden last night infuriated Republicans by declaring that the Second Amendment, which enshrines the right to bear arms, was "not absolute".
The US president called gun violence a "public health epidemic" as he unveiled his first moves to tackle the controversial issue since taking office.
He said: "It's an epidemic for God's sake. It has to stop. It's an international embarrassment. Enough prayers, time for some action."
Mr Biden's package of executive measures included a crack down on so-called "ghost guns" which are sold in kits and built in as little as 30 minutes at home.
Speaking at the White House, the president said nothing he was proposing would impinge on the Second Amendment.
But he added: "No amendment to the Constitution is absolute. From the very beginning, you couldn't own any weapon you wanted to own."
Ted Cruz, the Republican senator and pro-gun advocate, said: "The right to keep and bear arms is fundamental for preserving our liberty."
Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas, added: "Biden is threatening our Second Amendment rights. We will NOT allow this in Texas."
Mr Biden has come under increasing pressure from his own Democratic party to clamp down on guns following recent mass killings in Colorado, Georgia and California and South Carolina.
His limited raft of six proposals, which the White House called "initial steps," fell short of his own campaign promises.
They did not include any concrete plans for bans on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, which have been used in many of America's high-profile mass shootings.
"Ghost guns" can be bought in pieces without a background check and often have no serial number, meaning they cannot be traced if used in a crime. Mr Biden's measure would see them regulated.
He also ordered the Justice Department to reclassify pistols that use "stabilising braces" as rifles, meaning they will require a government licence.
One of the braces was used by the gunman in a recent shooting in Boulder, Colorado, which left 10 dead.
The Justice Department will also publish guidance making it easier for states to adopt their own "red flag" laws.
Such laws allow confiscation of guns from someone a court deems to be a danger to themselves or others.
Mr Biden spoke in front of an audience that included Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who survived being shot in 2012.
He announced the appointment of a new guns tsar, David Chipman, a former SWAT team officer, who is a senior adviser to the Giffords gun safety advocacy group.
Mr Biden said: "I know it's painful and frustrating we haven't made the progress we hoped for. No matter how long it takes we're not going to give up. We're going to show ourselves and the world that democracy works. This is just the start.
"The idea we have so many people dying every single day from gun violence in America is a blemish on our character as a nation."
He added: "We should also ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Even law enforcement officials have told me they sometimes feel outgunned. There's no reason someone needs a weapon of war with 100 bullets. Nobody needs that."
The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives recently passed two bills that would tighten background checks on gun buyers.
However, the bills face stiff opposition in the Senate which is divided 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding a casting vote.
Republicans are resolutely opposed and so is Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat senator from West Virginia.
Mr Manchin has said he does not support the measures passed by the House "at all".