On Monday evening, President Obama prepped the media by dropping some serious juice on his gun control plan. The White House followed up by publishing some bare bones guidelines, and Tuesday morning saw Obama unveiling his tear-stained, official plan to reduce gun violence.
Many eyebrows raised at Obama’s apparent intent to disregard Congress and force an official executive move on gun reform. The president insisted (perhaps as a warning to those who would challenge) that he was well within his authority. Only a few months ago (while addressing the Oregon college shootings), Obama confronted critics who would inevitably accuse him of politicizing mass tragedies. Obama was fine with it: “This is something we should politicize.” As Obama nears the end of his second term, he’s not planning for a future bid for office. Instead, he’s taking action because he wants to “try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”
During the Tuesday speech, Obama stated his ultimate goal — to prevent the next mass shooting instead of falling into the usual routine of debating the last one. The president ended the speech in tears while discussing Sandy Hook, which reveals not only his sorrow, but also his relief at finally unveiling measures. We have to remember that Obama has truly, in his words, seen “too many” of these tragedies. The San Bernardino shootings marked the 15th time he addressed the nation after a mass shooting. After delivering some harsh data — more than 30,000 Americans die annually from gun violence — Obama said the U.S. should no longer “accept this carnage as the price of freedom.”
Obama promised that he’s not working up “a plot to take away everybody’s guns,” but he did admonish Republicans for blocking a 2013 bill (that 90% of the U.S. supported) in the wake of Sandy Hook. Obama won’t wait for Congress this time. He’ll push his gun plan into action, but he knows several provisions will require legislative action before they go into effect.
As revealed in Obama’s speech, the official new White House plan contains the following provisions:
- Background Checks Are Key: Those who are in the business of selling guns must do so with a license and must conduct background checks. There will be harsh new penalties for establishments and individuals who do not comply.
- Loopholes Will Close: The background-check system must close the loopholes that exist for online and gun-show sales, which have allowed small-seller record exemptions.
- New Rule For The Most Dangerous Weapons: These must be sold through a legal entity such as a trust or corporation.
- Disqualified Gun Ownership Will Increase: Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch will push states to share records of domestic violence and mental illness. States will also be advised to share complete criminal records.
- Safety Will Come With Innovation: Gun safety technology must be prioritized to prevent accidental shooting deaths. Obama compared this demand to previous steps to put child-proof bottles on aspirin and limit auto fatalities.
- Community Should Play A Role: Outreach for mental illness should be prioritized, as well. States will be encouraged to share information on mental health patients.
- Increased Funding Will Come: This will provide for 200 more Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives agents and investigators in addition to more than 230 more FBI background-check staff. The plan is to run FBI background checks on a 24/7 basis.
What doesn’t President Obama’s plan include? There’s no ban on large-capacity magazines, and people on terrorist “no-fly” lists are not prohibited from buying guns. Perhaps these omissions were purely political moves so that the plan can move forward with the least amount of opposition. These key quotes reveal Obama’s unwavering commitment:
- On his critics: “I believe in the Second Amendment. There, written on paper, that guarantees the right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around … we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”
- On the need for action: “Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking.”
- On pushing forward with hope: “We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”
- On legislative cooperation: “Congress still needs to act. The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot.”
- On Sandy Hook: “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.”
Obama knows that gun violence won’t stop immediately, and this cause will take a long road similar to women’s rights or LGBT rights. Obama says he won’t refuse to move “just because it’s hard.” He’s ready to get down to business on gun control, and now the ball is rolling.
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