In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, the gun control debate has reached fever pitch. In the weeks since, President Obama has designated VP Joe Biden as the point man for a White House gun control panel.
Biden on Thursday was set to meet with a number of related groups in the gun control debate, including policy leaders, entertainment industry members, and lobbyists.
Biden, in remarks on Wednesday, hinted that the president could act unilaterally on this issue with some sort of executive order.
"As the president said, if your actions result in only saving one life, they're worth taking. But I'm convinced we can affect the well-being of millions of Americans and take thousands of people out of harm's way if we act responsibly," Biden said.
According to the Washington Post, the administration is contemplating a set of proposals that would seek to tackle the gun issue in a more comprehensive manner. The proposals are as follows: require universal background checks for gun buyers; create a national database that would include information about gun sales; make it more difficult for those who suffer from a mental illness to acquire a gun by toughening the mental health background checks; and impose stiff penalties on those who provide guns to minors or possessing firearms close to a school.
The exact sort of executive action Obama would take is unclear. Still, the act of going it alone does bring up questions about whether the president would craft a policy that is in line with the national attitude ... and is viewing Congress as an ineffectual outlet to make rapid decisions.
Biden has made clear that the administration will do something.
Sandy Hook capped a wild year filled with high-profile mass shootings. In 2012 alone, over 140 people have been killed or injured by mass shooters in the United States.
One issue being presented in Congress is a second-coming of the Dianne Feinstein assault weapons ban. In September 1994, Congress passed the original Feinstein law that banned many types of assault of weapons. The bill barred the production of 18 varieties of semiautomatic weapons, and it also prevented the production of “high-capacity magazine that could carry more than 10 rounds.” In 2004, the Republican-controlled Congress decided not to renew the assault ban weapon.
The new bill that Feinstein, who was also behind the original measure, plans to introduce in the new Congress will be similar to the 1994 bill. Feinstein’s bill will prohibit the “sale, transfer, the importation and the possession, not retroactively, but prospectively,” of assault weapons that hold more than 10 bullets. President Obama indicated that he will support the proposed legislation.
The biggest pro-gun lobby, the NRA, has ripped the bill and many conservatives are calling such action an affront to their constitutionally-protected rights. Their efforts are seeing growing enthusiasm. The NRA has told Politico that it has gained over 100,000 new paid members in the past 18 days (Newtown shooting was Dec. 14), from 4.1 million to 4.2 million: "Our goal is to get to 5 million before this debate is over." Membership is $25, and comes with a choice of three gifts: Rosewood Handle Knife, Black & Gold Duffel Bag or Digital Camo Duffel Bag.
Recent Gallup polls show that a majority of Americans (51%) still oppose an AWB, while 44% are for it. However, 92% of Americans support requiring background checks for buyers at gun shows.