Obama’s Gun Control Proposals: A Primer

Obama’s Gun Control Proposals: A Primer


President Obama today presented his proposals for gun control at the Eisenhower Executive building in a room with press and attended by 4 children who wrote him  letters  following the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school last month.

After the Newtown, Connecticut incident where a 20-year old gunman shot twenty 6- and 7-year old children and 6 educators and administrators,  more and more Americans have expressed support for some restraints and limitations on gun ownership, including by people that are mentally unstable.

This week, a commissioned task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden presented Obama its recommendations  after the group met with the National Rifle Association, Wal-Mart, the largest seller of guns, the entertainment industry and other stake holders.

The end result is a list of proposals and 23 executive actions Obama said he will make. Many watchers of this issue expected some of the suggestions including a request for a universal background check on gun purchasers.

Responsible gun owners and proponents of the 2nd amendment could find some of the proposals reasonable.

“If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is just one life that can be saved, then we have to at least try,” Obama said during his brief remarks before sitting at a small table to sign the executive orders while surrounding by the kids and members of his administration.

However, whether the proposals will pass through this contentious Congress is quite uncertain.

Also, there will very likely be opposition from some gun advocates for his proposal to reinstate a national band on  high-capacity ammunition magazines that were once prohibited between 1994 and 2004.  The Brady Center, named for former President Ronald Reagan press secretary Jim Brady who got shot during an assassination attempt on Reagan, lobbied for and got the ban passed.

The White House noted in presentations submitted to the press that several of the  recent mass shootings involved high-capacity ammunition magazines  and indicated that it will ask Congress to renew the 10-round limit on magazines, as well as reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban.

“That is what allowed one man to shoot 70 people in a matter of minutes,” Obama said today of the Colorado Theater shooting.

Several other aspects of the series of executive actions will impact various groups:

Gun-Owners – There is currently a national background check on gun purchasers in place however, some  have been able to bypass the check by purchasing their guns at gun shows. Obama proposes to close that loophole and require background checks for all purchases, irrespective of where purchased. The exception will be for those who pass weapons along to family members, and temporary passes of guns for hunting, gaming and sports.

Criminal Penalties – Obama called for increasing punishment for gun traffickers in order to deter the practice and lock away those who earn a living selling guns illegally, many of which wind up in the hands of criminals.

Tracking – One of the executive actions will require all guns to be traced and another will empower local jurisdictions the ability to have access to national tracking databases so they do not accidentally return guns to those who were previously banned from having them.

Currently, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) division cannot limit old guns over 50 years old from coming into the county if they were being brought in as relics. The White House noted that some of those old guns were being used in crimes and wants the ATF to be authorized to follow up and check that the relics will be stored and used for collector’s purposes only.

Privacy – Among the executive actions the president will take is to clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in their homes. Also, he will confirm that health care providers can report threats from their patients without fear of legal retribution from a federal laws. Notably, the Colorado mass shooting suspect, currently undergoing trial, told his therapist days before the shooting that he had urges to kill a lot of people.  Today, a widow of one of those victims is suing that therapist and the University of Colorado for not doing more to report the patient to police. The issue presents a conundrum for privacy and patient rights advocates who fear provisions like these could be set up for less patient privacy and protections.

NRA Suggestions adoptedEven as today an NRA ad accuses the President of being a hypocrite on gun rights because the First Daughters are protected by armed Secret Service while most children in America are not, the president’s proposals actually does include a directive to give priority to COPS Hiring Grants that will support school resource officers. Obama proposes to provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.  Both proposals are direct responses to the NRA’s suggestion solution to school shootings.  But most likely, the NRA didn’t know that before releasing itsquestionably distasteful ad.

Schools – To help the thousands of schools nationwide scrambling to implement emergency plans in light of the Sandy Hook strategy, the administration will develop a model plan for schools, houses of worship and colleges and universities.

Insurance  Industry – The administration will finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within the ACA exchanges and mental health parity. It could mean insurers will have to cover more mental health services. Some say it is easier and cheaper to purchase a gun than get access to reasonably affordable mental health services. This provision deals with this issue.

Police  – Obama called for legislation to get armor-piercing bullets off the street.  There will be a proposal to spend $4 million to hire more police officers for local jurisdictions.

The 23 Executive proposals will cost $500 million in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget and for that is likely to see some opposition from Republicans in Congress who are traditionally wary of additional spending.