Obama Unveils Gun-Control Push
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama on Wednesday began his push for the most sweeping changes to gun laws in nearly two decades, including banning the sale of certain semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks for all gun buyers.
The president—rolling out his plan at a White House event flanked by children who wrote him in the aftermath of the shooting spree last month at a Connecticut elementary school—will push for a mix of 23 steps that he can take using executive powers as well as bigger moves that need congressional approval. A senior administration official said all the actions and proposals will cost about $500 million.
Banning certain types of weapons and high-capacity magazines, among other steps, will face a battle in Congress. Gun groups such as the National Rifle Association have said they will adamantly oppose many changes to gun laws.The president said that he respects the country's "strong tradition of gun ownership" but that the recent spate of mass shootings required action. "We can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible law breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive level,'' he said.
The Newtown, Conn., school shooting last month has made gun control an urgent addition to the president's agenda as he begins his second term. In the month since the shootings, which killed 20 children and six adults at the school, Mr. Obama has mobilized Vice President Joe Biden, several cabinet members and other administration officials to study gun-control measures, mental-health issues, violence in videogames and more. After meeting with dozens of groups on both sides of the gun debate, Mr. Biden delivered a long list of recommendations to the president on Monday.
NRA officials have predicted that Congress won't pass legislation to ban high-capacity magazines and a group of semiautomatic rifles often called assault weapons, and many lawmakers have said many of the president's recommendations will face strong opposition.
Some states, including New York and Maryland, have moved ahead with aggressive gun-control laws. On Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that broadens the definition of banned semiautomatic rifles as so-called assault weapons and makes it illegal to own ammunition magazines with more than seven rounds.
New York's law also requires many gun owners to renew their licenses every five years, increases background checks and expands a law requiring some seriously mentally ill people to get treatment. It also requires psychiatrists and other health-care providers to report patients who may be dangerous to themselves or others.
According to a January poll conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, about 85% of Americans favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. Also, Pew found, 80% support laws to prevent mentally ill people from purchasing guns.
But other measures show much more of a divide. Just 55% support a ban on assault-style weapons, with much stronger support from Democrats, the poll found.
|Some of President Obama's Proposals|
|• Requiring background checks for all gun buyers [needs congressional approval]|
|• Ban certain semiautomatic rifles [needs congressional approval]|
|• Require a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines [needs congressional approval]|
|• Prohibit manufacturing, importation, possession and sale of armor-piercing bullets [needs congressional approval]|
|• New gun trafficking laws with serious penalties [needs congressional approval]|
|• Provide incentives for police departments to hire officers for schools and mental-health counselors [Something the NRA would likely support as it has called for armed guards in every school]|
|• Require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations|
|• Direct the Center for Disease Control to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence|
|• Asking Congress to provide $10 million for the CDC to conduct research on gun violence|
|• Launch a national responsible gun ownership program|
|• Nominating B. Todd Jones to be permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [needs Senate confirmation; he is currently acting director]|
|Source: White House officials|