Flanked by four schoolchildren, President Obama unveiled a sweeping plan to address gun violence on Wednesday that includes 23 executive orders, closing background-check loopholes and asking Congress to restore a ban on military-style assault weapons.
Under the president’s plan, the ban on assault weapons would include magazines that hold more than ten rounds, which were used by the shooters in recent high-profile mass shootings, including the shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, and a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
“In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun – 900 in the past month,”Obama said in an address. “And every day we wait, that number will keep growing.”
Don’t miss a beat
Get the latest news and thought-provoking analysis from Truthout.
A ban on assault weapons was in place from 1994 until 2004, but Obama admitted that it would not be easy to convince Congress to reinstate the ban. The president’s plan is the biggest push for gun control Washington has seen is decades and is expected to meet considerable backlash from the powerful gun lobby and its allies in Congress.
“There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty – not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves,” Obama said. “And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any commonsense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”
The president will also push Congress to pass legislation to close the “gun show loophole”and require criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those made by private sellers who are currently exempt from background-check requirements.
The plan also includes a comprehensive strategy to make schools safer which includes incentives for schools to hire “school resource officers”and mental health professionals. The president also wants to “end the freeze on gun violence research” and allow the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research on the cause and prevention of gun violence, including links with video games and the media.
Congress has barred such research in the past, according to the White House.
The White House also released memorandums today requiring executive agencies to improve the availability of federal records to the national criminal background check system, engage in public research on the cause and prevention of gun violence, and ensure that all firearms confiscated during federal investigations are traced through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
The 23 executive orders signed by President Obama today do not appear to have an impact on current individual gun owners. Here’s a 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. Conduct a review by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.
9. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a Department of Justice 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 (ACA) 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 Secretary of Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on mental health.