President Calls for Assault-Weapon Ban, Stronger Background Checks
Wednesday afternoon, President Obama proposed numerous measures in response to a string of recent mass shootings across the country, including one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were murdered by a gunman.
Obama called for a ban on assault weapons, like the one used in Newtown, and high-capacity magazines, also used in Newtown, as well as more extensive background checks for all gun buyers, among other things. In total, his plan includes four legislative proposals and 23 executive orders, which he can implement without approval from Congress. (Full list below.)
The White House event was the culmination of a monthlong process initiated after the Newtown killings, led mostly by Vice President Biden. Relatives of the 20 children who died at Sandy Hook stood by as Obama signed the executive orders. “This is our first task as a society,” Obama said. “Keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.”
The Senate is expected to take up the legislative proposals later this month. Those include reinstating the ban on military-style assault weapons and a new ban on armor-piercing bullets.
The president announced that he would nominate B. Todd Jones, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, to become its permanent chief. The agency has been without a full-time director for six years.
The president's 23 executive orders are:
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
- 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.
- Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
- 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.
- Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
- Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
- Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
- Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
- Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
- Nominate an ATF director.
- Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
- Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
- 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.
- Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
- Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
- Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
- Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
- Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
- Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
- Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
- Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
A full transcript of the event can be found here.