Lawmakers split along largely partisan lines to either praise or oppose the president's proposals to close background check loopholes, ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, provide schools more safety resources and re-examine mental health.
President Obama on Wednesday unveiled what is being called the most aggressive gun control agenda in decades, initiating 23 separate executive actions aimed at curbing what he called “the epidemic of gun violence in this country.” In front of children and families of children who had written the president letters about guns and gun control after the Dec. 14th elementary school shooting in Newtown, President Obama laid out four areas of his plan–requiring background checks for all gun owners, banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, providing schools with safety resources, and increasing access to mental health services.
The president and his administration will execute the following the 23 executive actions, listed in order by the White House:
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.
Source: White House
NBC News asked Speaker John Boehner’s office if the Speaker had a response to Obama’s announcement on guns. His spokesman replied, “House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations. And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that.” On Dec. 20th, Boehner was also asked about his thoughts on Biden’s task force, and gave a similar response. “Well, we’ll look at the Vice President Biden’s commission’s recommendations and take it under advisement.”
Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement reiterating his support for the Second Amendment, and argued that guns are not the problem but criminals and mentally ill people are. He stated that he strongly opposes the president’s plan, as a “strong defender of the Second Amendment.”
“Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook. President Obama is targeting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence. Rolling back responsible citizens’ rights is not the proper response to tragedies committed by criminals and the mentally ill. Making matters worse is that President Obama is again abusing his power by imposing his policies via executive fiat instead of allowing them to be debated in Congress. President Obama’s frustration with our republic and the way it works doesn’t give him license to ignore the Constitution.
Kansas Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp shared similar sentiments, and summed up how most conservative House Republicans oppose any proposed legislation aimed at controlling guns. “The Second Amendment is non-negotiable. The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama’s disdain for the Second Amendment and the Constitution’s limits on his power. Congress must stand firm for the entirety of the Constitution–even if, but particularly so, when President Obama seeks to ignore his obligation to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’”
A longtime advocate of gun control, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg lauded the president’s gun safety plan, especially the provisions to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds and closing background check loopholes. ”Reasonable reforms like a ban on high-capacity magazines would save innocent lives and help reduce tragedies like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, and so many others. Stronger background checks, including thorough reviews of all purchases at gun shows, need to be standard practice to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
And Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband to gun violence, also praised President Obama’s range of efforts to reduce gun violence. As the sponsor of bills to ban high-capacity magazines, stricter background checks, and a new assault weapons ban, Rep. McCarthy also targeted the gun lobbying groups.
“People are sick and tired of a small part of the population with a lot of money–the gun manufacturing lobby–blocking any effort to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people. And the polls prove it–one after another recently is showing that the majority of the American people, including gun owners, support measures designed to keep the most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the most dangerous people. So today we forge ahead, with the president and the American people behind us, to continue to work to reduce gun violence in America. These efforts can save lives, and we will fight hard to enact them.”