President Obama Announces Executive Actions To Reduce Gun Violence
There were more mass shootings than days in the year in 2015. Yet after Charleston, Lafayette, Umpuqua Community College, San Bernardino, and more, this Congress has insisted on doing nothing about it. In the wake of yet another failure by Congress to take any commonsense steps to prevent gun violence, President Obama is doing what he can using his own authority.
This morning, in a moving speech, the President announced a package of executive actions to reduce gun violence and strengthen enforcement of existing gun laws. He teared up talking about the victims of Newtown: “We have to be organized in defense of our kids. They have rights too,” he said. “We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of our freedom.” The executive actions fall into four categories. Here’s a breakdown of what they cover:
1. Enhance And Improve Background Checks: The leading and most controversial action is the strengthening of background checks by clarifying what it means to be “engaged in the business” or selling firearms. Before the guidance issued today, many high-volume gun sellers were able to exploit the ambiguity in the law and operate profit-driven businesses in guns without becoming a licensed gun dealer and without conducting background checks. This guidance provides much-needed clarity regarding which sellers of guns are required to become licensed dealers and conduct background checks and will face serious criminal penalties for failing to do so. The president also announced a number of actions to improve the efficiency of the background check system.
2. Make Communities Safer Through Enhanced Enforcement: Smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws is also essential in the fight to reduce gun violence, and the President announced new steps to better enforce the laws we already have on the books. The executive actions include measures to help focus on smart and effective enforcement of gun laws, including funding for hundreds of new AFT agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws, improving systems to investigate illegal online gun trafficking, and encouraging domestic violence outreach efforts.
3. Increase Resources For Mental Health Treatment And Reporting: The administration has proposed a $500 million investment to fund an increase in access to mental health care. The executive actions will also remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information to the background check system about prohibited purchasers.
4. Encourage Innovation In Smart Gun Technology: Too many lives are lost each year because of firearms that were stolen, misused, or fired accidentally. As Obama said in his statement, “If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can’t pull the trigger on a gun.” The package of executive actions includes steps to increase research and development of smart gun technology as well as to promote the use of this technology.
We are here “not to do something about the last mass shooting, but to prevent the next one,” President Obama said this morning. In the absence of Congressional action, the President’s executive actions give voice to what the American people want: 90 percent of Americans support a criminal background check for anyone who wants to buy a firearm.
BOTTOM LINE: This package of executive actions will not be able to stop every senseless act of gun violence, but with a gun death every 15 minutes in the U.S., doing nothing is not an option. President Obama’s executive actions are an important and legal step in reducing gun violence in America. Now it’s time for elected officials in Congress and around the country to follow his lead.
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