President Obama on Wednesday launched into a historic political quest to end gun violence in America, providing the broadest gun control measures seen in over a generation.
The president said in a news conference that he’d use “the weight of his office” to enact 23 executive actions and push Congress to pass more comprehensive gun control policies, including stricter background checks.
Vice President Joe Biden, in introducing the president, said that since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy — the watershed mass shooting that has set off the gun control debate — “the world has changed, and is demanding action.”
The vice president, who led Obama’s panel to investigate gun control measures, said that the administration planned “to do as much as we can, as quickly as we can.”
Not since the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban (which expired in 2005) has America seen such strong gun enforcement legislation. That weapons ban in itself is miniscule compared to the president’s proposed gun control efforts.
In addition to reinstating and even strengthening the assault weapons ban, Obama’s plan will:
* Require criminal background checks for all gun sales.
* Take four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system.
* Restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
* Protect police by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets.
* Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
* End the freeze on gun violence research.
* Make our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans.
* Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
* Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
Because these recommendations require congressional approval, the administration is supplementing its proposal with 23 executive actions that will be taken immediately, according to the White House.
The list of such actions include requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system; providing law enforcement officials, first responders and school officials with better training for active shooting situations; directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence; and many more.
Obama is also pushing for the ATF to get a director immediately. Interesting fact: Not a single ATF director has been confirmed by the Senate since 1970.
So clearly Obama will have his hands full.
All this massive gun legislation comes as just 4% of Americans identify guns as the nation's top problem, per Gallup.
The gun-rights lobby has already signaled that it will try to block the administration's effort. The National Rifle Association is set to lobby representatives on Capitol Hill starting next week.
The measures by Obama would be substantial and ... if fully passed ... would change the gun culture in America as we know it.
Obama, of course, is no stranger to massive policy debates, the likes of which can change the fabric of America: His Affordable Care Act "Obamacare" has started to be implemented, with no shortage of controversy from critics who say the goverment is over-stepping its duties.
America was divided on Obamacare, and seems to be just as divided on this issue.
A Pew poll found 55% of Americans favor a ban on assault-style weapons (69% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans) ... the liberal strategy in this debate. But, on the flip side, conservatives are also winning over Americans: By a two-to-one margin (64%-32%), most Americans favor putting armed security guards and police in more schools (this was the NRA's solution to Sandy Hook). But when it comes to more teachers and school officials having guns, most are opposed (40% favor vs. 57% oppose).
Sandy Hook was very much a watershed event that has helped Obama push these policies: an ABC/Washington Post poll shows 52% say the Newtown shootings made them more supportive of gun control.
But most Americans aren't looking for historic gun control reform: According to Gallup, 38% of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's gun laws and want them strengthened. This is up from 25% who held this set of views a year ago, and is the highest since 2001. Still, more Americans are either satisfied with current gun laws, 43%, or think they should be loosened, 5%.
So the verdict is out on what the Americans want ....
Still, Obama is taking the opportunity to address a massive problem in America: violent crime. As the president said, there have been 900 gun-related deaths in the U.S. since Sandy Hook.
Since 2005, when the assault weapons ban expired, there have been 32 mass public shootings, including seven in 2012 (adding up to 20% of all mass public shootings over the last two decades).
"If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, then we've got an obligation to try," Obama said in his speech. And he's right.