“It’s been 33 days since the nation’s heart was broken by the horrific, senseless violence that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School— 20 — 20 beautiful first-graders gunned down in a place that’s supposed to be their second sanctuary. Six members of the staff killed trying to save those children. It’s literally been hard for the nation to comprehend, hard for the nation to fathom,” said Vice President Joe Biden, before he announced the president. Biden was entrusted with meeting with over 200 groups to formulate a package of gun control proposals.
Since the Sandy Hill Elementary School massacre over 900 Americans have been killed by guns. It has taken first-graders mowed down by a semiautomatic weapon in their classroom to jolt the nation into demanding steps to counter this kind of violence. President Barack Obama asked the people of America to continue to stand with him to make sure that Congress passes his common sense initiatives for reasonable gun control. His call to action connected American’s with their roots as he referred to rights all Americans are afforded.
“The right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The right to assemble peaceably, that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon, and moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado,” said President Barack Obama in an explicit reference to the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights. “That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness— fundamental rights that were denied to college students at Virginia Tech, and high school students at Columbine, and elementary school students in Newtown, and kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate, and all the families who’ve never imagined that they’d lose a loved one to a bullet— those rights are at stake,” the president continued, paraphrasing the Declaration of Independence.
“As we’ve also long recognized, as our founders recognized, that with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of, and by, and for the people.”
Obama signed 23 executive orders on the spot and sent a package of proposals to Congress, even as he acknowledged the difficulty of passing them with Republican politicians playing grid lock politics.
“There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty,” he said.
Executive orders will:
“These are a few of the 23 executive actions that I’m announcing today,” said Obama.”But as important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from members of Congress. To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act — and Congress must act soon. And I’m calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away.”
1. Address legal barriers in health laws that bar some states from making available information about people who are prohibited from having guns.
2. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
3. Make sure that federal agencies share relevant information with the background check system.
4. 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.
5. Direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other research agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence.
6. Clarify that no federal law prohibits doctors or other health care providers from contacting authorities when patients threaten to use violence.
7. Give local communities the opportunity to hire up to 1,000 school resource officers and counselors.
8. Require federal law enforcement to trace all recovered guns.
9. Propose regulations that will enable law enforcement to run complete background checks before returning firearms that have been seized.
10. Direct the Justice Department to analyze information on lost and stolen guns and make that information available to law enforcement.
11. Provide training for state and local law enforcement, first responders and school officials on how to handle active-shooter situations.
12. Make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan.
13. Help ensure that young people get needed mental health treatment.
14. Ensure that health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
15. Encourage development of new technology to make it easier for gun owners to safely use and store their guns.
16. Have the Consumer Product Safety Commission assess the need for new safety standards for gunlocks and gun safes.
17. Launch a national campaign about responsible gun ownership.
Measures that Obama announced that will need the continued support of the people to get Congress to approve:
“First: It’s time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. (Applause.) The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that’s kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But it’s hard to enforce that law when as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That’s not safe. That’s not smart. It’s not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers.
“If you want to buy a gun — whether it’s from a licensed dealer or a private seller — you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. This is common sense. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks — including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members, according to one survey. So there’s no reason we can’t do this.
“Second: Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines. (Applause.) The type of assault rifle used in Aurora, for example, when paired with high-capacity magazines, has one purpose — to pump out as many bullets as possible, as quickly as possible; to do as much damage, using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.
“And that’s what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot 70 people — 70 people — killing 12 in a matter of minutes. Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater. A majority of Americans agree with us on this.
“And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to “listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons.”
“And finally, Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this. Since Congress hasn’t confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm Todd Jones, who will be — who has been Acting, and I will be nominating for the post.”
• 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.