After the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012,
Barack Obama vowed to seek new gun laws from Congress that would secure background checks for all firearms purchased. Despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans, including gun owners, approved of stronger background checks, his high profile efforts failed in the months that followed. The National Rifle Association, N.R.A., exerted maximum lobbying pressure on members of both houses of Congress. Obama called the failure “ a pretty shameful day for Washington.”
It is now 2016 : Eighty six men, women and children die from gunshot wounds every day in the United States . This number includes homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. Mass murders occur on a regular basis throughout the country in schools, government and work settings. Certain states are increasing their open- carry laws that make guns more visible in restaurants, on streets and college campuses. The N.R.A. and other Second amendment activists are at odds with the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence. The organization is named for James Brady who was crippled by the gunfire from the assassin who shot President Reagan.
Obama has decided to use his executive powers to enforce gun laws already on the books, and to keep guns from people likely to use them in crimes. This was announced at the White House on Tuesday, January 5. An important action will be to require more gun sellers to have a federal license and to perform a background check for every purchase. There are at present unlicensed sellers, who may be a small fraction of tens of thousands already following the rules. However, a study by the advocacy group, Everyone for Gun Safety, revealed that the unlicensed dealers account for the largest percentage of guns sold. Thus, they are more likely to appeal to criminals and others hiding from authorities. Current law will be clarified to discover how many guns these unlicensed dealers sell, how quickly they resell them in their original packaging, and their profit.
Another important action will be to improve the functioning of the federal background- check data base in effect since 1998. This is an essential tool that has stopped millions of sales of weapons to people whose names appear on the prohibited list. The Federal Bureau of Investigation , F.B.I., will notify state and local authorities whenever a prohibited person attempts to buy a gun and is rejected. In Virginia, follow-up of those denied a gun after a background check have led to over 14,000 arrests.
Obama is also sending a budget proposal that calls for money for 200 new agents and investigators in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives . They will help enforce existing gun laws ; requiring dealers to notify authorities when guns are lost or stolen; increasing law enforcement access to mental health records; and providing funding for research in gun safety technology.
The President knew his actions to reduce gun violence would provoke a heated election year debate and it certainly did explode rapidly. News of the executive orders leaked and on Sunday, January 3, Donald Trump said on CBS’s “Face The Nation”, “I don’t like anything having to do with changing the Second Amendment.” Jeb Bush on “Fox News Sunday” warned that “Mr. Obama’s first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens.” Chris Christie also on “Fox News” dismissed the executive orders as “illegal” , calling Obama “a petulant child’, a “king’ and a “dictator”. In contrast, the Brady campaign said on Sunday that “ history will be made in the East Room of the White House tomorrow.” It is also important to note that Hillary Clinton, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination for President, has been stressing the need for more gun control legislation as a key part of her campaign policies and programs. Bernie Sanders has joined her in the call for improved background checks tio reduce gun violence as a must in his campaign speeches.
On Monday, January 4, Obama told reporters after a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, that his actions were well within his legal authority. Jennifer Baker with the N.R.A. lobbying arm , commented, “This is it, really? This is what they’ve been hyping for how long now? … They’re not really doing anything.” Representative Mike Thompson , Democrat of California and chairman of the gun control caucus in the House disagreed. He praised the president for taking action saying, “ I think he’s done all he can do under his authority.” He then added, “What really needs to be done. The laws must be changed. There needs to be a law that says, you buy a gun, you get a background check.”
Eighteen states have passed universal background check laws with teeth in them. In those states, there has been a large decline in gun deaths. Congress needs to pass a universal background check law nation wide. When members of Congress , Republicans and Democrats, reject the pressure from N.R.A. lobbyists, that will come to pass and gun violence in this nation will drop.