WASHINGTON President Barack Obama is announcing a $500 million package of executive actions and legislative proposals aimed at reducing gun violence a month after a mass shooting in Connecticut killed 20 elementary school children.
The package includes a call on Congress to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and it would shore up the gun sale background-check system.
Obama also is signing 23 executive actions, which require no congressional approval, including several aimed at improving access to data for background checks. A presidential memorandum will instruct the Centers for Disease Control to research causes and prevention of gun violence.
Obama is asking Congress to expand background checks on gun buyers to include private sales and is using his executive authority to increase the information available in data banks in the background check system. The White House says nearly 40 percent of gun sales are conducted by private individuals now exempt from checking the backgrounds of buyers.
He also ordered a review of standards for gun locks and a tracing of guns recovered in criminal investigations.
Obama is also ordering federal agencies to make “relevant data” available to the federal background check system and to remove barriers that might prevent states from providing information, particularly mental-health data, for background checks.
But the president, speaking at the White House, acknowledged the most effective actions must be taken by lawmakers.
“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,” Obama said. “And Congress must act soon.”
Obama was flanked by children who wrote him letters about gun violence in the weeks after the Newtown, Conn., shooting. Families of the 20 children killed in the massacre, as well as survivors, were also in the audience along with law enforcement officers and members of Congress.
“This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe,” Obama said. “This is how we will be judged.”
The president based his proposals on recommendations from an administrationwide task force led by Vice President Joe Biden.
Below are the administration's proposals for curbing gun violence.
NEEDS CONGRESSIONAL ACTION:
- Requiring background checks on all gun sales. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says 40 percent of gun sales are conducted with no criminal background check, such as at gun shows and by private sellers over the Internet or through classified ads. Obama said there should be exceptions for cases like certain transfers among family members and temporary transfers for hunting purposes.
- Reinstating the assault weapons ban. A 10-year ban on high-grade, military-style weapons expired in 2004. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says such a ban might clear the Senate but doubts it could get through the House.
- Renewing a 10-round limit on the size of ammunition magazines.
- Prohibiting the possession, transfer, manufacture and import of dangerous armor-piercing bullets.
- Senate confirmation of a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The agency has been run by an acting director, Todd Jones, whom Obama will nominate to become director.
- New gun trafficking laws penalizing people who help criminals get guns.
- Address legal barriers in health laws that bar some states from making available information about people who are prohibited from having guns.
- Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
- Make sure that federal agencies share relevant information with the background check system.
- Direct the attorney general to work with other agencies to review existing laws to make sure they can identify individuals who shouldn’t have access to guns.
- Direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence.
- Clarify that no federal law prohibits doctors or other health-care providers from contacting authorities when patients threaten to use violence.
- Give local communities the opportunity to hire up to 1,000 school resource officers and counselors.
- Require federal law enforcement to trace all recovered guns.
- Propose regulations that will enable law enforcement to run complete background checks before returning firearms that have been seized.
- Direct the Justice Department to analyze information on lost and stolen guns and make that information available to law enforcement.
- Provide training for state and local law enforcement, first responders and school officials on how to handle active-shooter situations.
- Make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan.
- Help ensure that young people get needed mental health treatment.
- Ensure that health-insurance plans cover mental-health benefits.
- Encourage development of new technology to make it easier for gun owners to safely use and store their guns.
- Have the Consumer Product Safety Commission assess the need for new safety standards for gun locks and gun safes.
- Launch a national campaign about responsible gun ownership.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
Information for this article was contributed by Bloomberg News.