This afternoon, President Obama announced a package of proposals to reduce gun violence. These are executive actions, not legislation, and will—among other things—strengthen law enforcement efforts against gun crime, encourage more stringent background checks, and provide resources for gun safety. Here is the full list:
- 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.
This is a mix of classic gun control measures, and policies that bring a public-health approach to gun safety. The goal is both to reduce the number of assault weapons and illegal guns in circulation, and to reduce the lethality of the guns that already exist, with gun-safety education and research.
It’s a smart approach, although it’s limited by the lack of congressional action. As such, Obama has also called for Congress to pass several gun-control measures: Universal background checks for anyone buying a gun, a new assault-weapons ban, and tougher penalties on people who buy guns with the “express purpose” of illegal sales. What’s more, Obama has also called on Congress to confirm his nominee to direct the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agency.
Obama has devoted a good amount of political capital to new gun laws, and the public supports him. Whether Congress will do anything is, of course, an open question.
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