Fresh off a Tuesday meeting with 16 big-city mayors where he said he’d continue to do everything in his power to combat gun violence, President Obama announced on Thursday that he would add two new executive actions to his overall gun control agenda.
One executive action would block the importation of surplus military weapons by private entities and the other would close a loophole that allows individuals to avoid background checks by registering certain restricted firearms to corporations or trusts.
Vice President Joe Biden, who took on the role of gun control czar in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, revealed the new executive actions on Thursday at the White House.
“It’s simple, it’s straightforward, it’s common sense,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room.
Since 2005, the U.S. Government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 surplus military weapons by private entities. Under the new executive action, most private entities will be banned from reimporting firearms.
“When the United States provides military firearms to its allies, either as direct commercial sales or through the foreign military sales or military assistance programs, those firearms may not be imported back into the United States without U.S. government approval,” the White House said in a statement.
“Today, the Administration is announcing a new policy of denying requests to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States to private entities, with only a few exceptions such as for museums,” the White House continued. “This new policy will help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.”
The National Firearms Act places heavy restrictions on the sale, ownership, use and transport of short barreled rifles, short barreled shotguns, machine guns, silencers and suppressors, and “destructive devices.”
For one to own these firearms and devices, he/she must undergo a background check, register the firearm/device with the federal government and pay a tax (anywhere from $5 to $200, depending on the weapon/device).
However, if one registers the weapon to a trust or corporation, no background check is run. According to the White House’s statement, last year alone, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations.
“The proposed rule requires individuals associated with trusts or corporations that acquire these types of weapons to undergo background checks, just as these individuals would if the weapons were registered to them individually,” said the White House.
“By closing this loophole, the regulation will ensure that machine guns and other particularly dangerous weapons do not end up in the wrong hands,” it concluded.
While it’s unclear as to how many criminals and street thugs actually go through the trouble of creating a corporation so they can possess heavily-restricted firearms, Biden contended that closing the loophole is necessary.
“It’s a very artful dodge to get around people who are not capable, constitutionally or legally, of owning a weapon,” Biden said.
The National Rifle Association, on the other hand, sees both executive actions as misguided efforts that will do nothing to prevent gun-related violence.
“The Obama administration has once again completely missed the mark when it comes to stopping violent crime,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the Associated Press. “This administration should get serious about prosecuting violent criminals who misuse guns and stop focusing its efforts on law-abiding gun owners.”
So, if you’re keeping tabs, this brings the president’s executive actions on gun control to 25. The White House claims that it has completed or made significant progress on 22 of the 23 executive actions, the exception being requiring insurers to cover mental health at parity with medical benefits (number 21/22 below).
Here’s a review of the list:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
24. Closing a Loophole to Keep Some of the Most Dangerous Guns Out of the Wrong Hands
25. Keeping Surplus Military Weapons Off Our Streets
It should also be noted that today, Thursday, Biden swore in B. Todd Jones as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Jones was recently confirmed by the Senate.
What are your thoughts about the new E.A.s? Will they help to reduce gun violence?