President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, standing left clapping, and children who wrote the president about gun violence following last month's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., signs executive orders to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.
Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
"I am committed to ensuring that the Senate will consider legislation that addresses gun violence and other aspects of violence in our society early this year."
-Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID, D-Nev.
"Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook. ... Rather than sweeping measures that make it harder for responsible, law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms, we should focus on the root causes of gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill."
-Sen. MARCO RUBIO, R-Fla.
A federal blueprint to curb gun deaths
- Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD
- Star Tribune
- January 16, 2013 - 8:19 PM
According to recent polls, six in 10 Americans want tighter gun-control laws, and more than 80 percent support standard federal background checks for those who wish to purchase firearms at gun shows.
Following the horrific school shooting in Connecticut last month, a majority of Americans are clearly ready for strong action to curb gun violence.
President Obama followed that lead Wednesday in recommending a sensible combination of legislative and administrative steps to address the complicated problem on several fronts. Flanked by four children who had written him letters about school shootings, the president signed an executive order enacting 23 measures that don't require congressional approval.
As he had promised, his independent actions comprehensively address a range of areas, including school security, mental-health care and strengthening background checks. Some of the changes are relatively minor and would clarify existing rules.
However, some of the other executive actions have potential for more impact. They include ordering federal agencies to make more background-check data available, requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations, and providing more training for police, first responders and school officials.
Obama wants to boost antibullying campaigns in schools and give schools the ability to use federal funds to improve safety -- but stopped short of endorsing the NRA's call for armed guards in all schools.
Aside from the executive orders, the president acknowledged that only lawmakers can enact the most effective measures for preventing more mass shootings.
To that end, Obama wisely recommended that federal lawmakers adopt background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt. He also rightly wants Congress to restore the assault-weapons ban and place a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
Those proposals will receive significant pushback. Already on Wednesday, gun-rights advocates and some lawmakers were dismissing the recommendations as "executive power grabs" and "attacks on guns while ignoring children."
That's nonsense. Gun violence is complicated, and effectively addressing it will require a varied response. As the president pointed out, more than 900 people died from gunshots in the United States in the month since 20 first-graders and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook school. And those numbers will only grow unless certain types of weapons and ammunition are taken out of circulation.
The president's proposals followed extensive discussions over the past several weeks involving victims' groups and organizations that represent gun owners, elected officials and law-enforcement leaders. The effort was led by Vice President Joe Biden.
Combined, the executive orders and legislative measures would cost an estimated $500 million if fully adopted.
The overdue changes aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those who would harm others represent the most sweeping effort to curb gun violence in at least a generation. It's time, as Obama noted Wednesday, for Americans to stand up and say "enough."
© 2013 Star Tribune