Homeland Security and Public Safety

Gun Control Showdown Coming to Congress
By: Wayne Hanson on January 16, 2013
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President Barack Obama announced 23 executive actions on Wednesday, Jan. 16, to help reduce gun violence and called for Congress to take action on those requiring congressional approval.

The actions include implementing a universal background-check system for all gun purchasers including private sales; banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; funding research for the causes of gun violence; removing impediments for medical and mental health professionals to report threats of gun violence; providing incentives for schools to hire additional resource officers; developing emergency plans for schools, and more.

Among the points relevant to local government was a call for school resource officers, and urging Congress to act on a $4 billion proposal to "help keep 15,000 cops on the street in cities and towns across the country." The president also will issue a directive to federal law enforcement agencies to trace manufacture and ownership of firearms recovered from crimes, and will require law enforcement to run background checks before returning any firearms to owners. Obama is also asking Congress for $14 million to help train 14,000 more law enforcement personnel to respond to active shooters.

Several actions were directed at encouraging development and implementation of new gun safety technologies, and higher standards for both gun safes and trigger locks. Obama also directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research causes and prevention of gun violence, and is asking Congress for $10 million to research the effects of video games and media violence on children.

Both the administration and gun-rights groups appear to be preparing for a showdown in Congress. Obama's tone was strident as he said the executive actions were not a substitute for action by Congress and appealed to the public to pressure elected officials. "What's more important," he said, "getting an A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaign or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade?"

The National Rifle Association (NRA) -- which earlier said it was disappointed in its meeting with Vice President Joe Biden's task force and proposed putting armed officers in schools -- issued a statement on its website in response to the president's proposals: The NRA "will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America's most valuable asset -- our children."

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