At the White House today, President Obama announced his comprehensive plan for curbing violence and preventing future mass shootings, a plan that involves a push for three major gun control reforms: universal background checks, a ban on ‘military-style assault’ weapons, and a ban on high-capacity magazines, mags that hold more than 10 rounds.
In addition to these gun control proposals all of which will need Congressional approval, Obama – via executive action – signed 23 measures to address what he called “the epidemic of gun violence” (see list below).
A federal push for tougher penalties for straw purchasers is also included on the agenda, perhaps one of the few places where gun rights advocates and gun control activists can unanimously agree.
“Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this,” said Obama
The announcement comes after a task force, spearheaded by Vice President Joe Biden, met with various stakeholders in the debate over gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT.
Admitting that his package of proposals wasn’t a panacea for gun-related violence, he said, “If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, we’ve got an obligation to try.”
The president also pledged that “in the days ahead, I intend to use whatever weight this office holds” to bring his agenda to fruition.
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.
So far, reactions from the gun community have been mixed.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, said in a press release that it is “reviewing Vice President Biden’s recommendations with an open mind in hopes they will offer real means of achieving our shared goal.”
The association added that it supports immediate updates to the National Instant Criminal Background Check Videos (NICS) and that it will continue to “campaign to promote the secure and responsible storage of all firearms and ammunition when not in use.”
With respect to the specific measures, President of the National Rifle Association, David Keene, told PBS Newshour on Tuesday that while “There is common ground” with the White House, “It is not on banning rifles that we don’t think will make any difference and it is not on setting up a national gun registry.”
Then today, in a press release, the NRA stated that it looks forward to “working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children,” but does not believe, as Keene iterated, that gun-related violence is solved through stricter gun laws that only affect law-abiding citizens.
Bottom line: with respect to a renewed AWB or bans on high capacity magazines, gun rights advocates and organizations will not go gentle into that good night.