Obama announces strategy for stricter gun laws

Law | Leigh Jones

Obama announces strategy for stricter gun laws

President Obama makes a point during Monday's press conference.
Associated Press/Photo by Carolyn Kaster

President Barack Obama revealed on Monday plans for a two-pronged strategy for enacting stricter gun-control measures.

First, the president plans to ask Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, as well as institute universal background checks for anyone purchasing a gun. Although the Senate, with its Democratic majority, might pass the proposed legislation, the Republican-led House is much less likely to approve any gun control measures.

The president has said he will not let politics get in the way of reducing gun-related violence, a mantra he repeated during a press conference Monday. But he also acknowledged the political reality, admitting he didn’t know whether all of his measures would make it through Congress.

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“My starting point is not to worry about the politics,” he said. “My starting point is to focus on what makes sense, what works.”

If the president can’t round up enough bipartisan support for his proposals, he will turn to Plan B—executive order. Administration officials confirmed Monday the president had a list of 19 regulations he could enact without congressional approval. The proposed executive orders include tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks and those involved in gun trafficking. The president also wants to end limits for federal research on gun use and give schools the ability to use grant money to fund safety efforts.

Obama could make a formal announcement about his legislative and executive order proposals as early as tomorrow.

The announcement will come a little more than a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead. The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, used an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine during the attack.

Just days after the shooting, the president formed a gun violence task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden and charged the group with making recommendations by the end of January. Biden presented the group’s findings Monday during a private meeting with the president.

Although Biden met with a variety of groups to gather input and new ideas, none of the proposals leaked so far offer any new suggestions. Immediately following the Newtown massacre, the president called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the nation’s largest gun-rights lobby group, has pledged to fight the president’s efforts. After meeting with Biden’s group, NRA representatives said they were disappointed in how little the discussion focused on curbing depictions of violence in the media and on measures to improve school safety.

“While claiming that no policy proposals would be ‘prejudged,’ this task force spent most of its time on proposed restrictions on lawful firearms owners—honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans,” the organization said in a prepared statement. “It is unfortunate that this administration continues to insist on pushing failed solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems. We will not allow law-abiding gun owners to be blamed for the acts of criminals and madmen.”

In a parting shot, the group pledged to take its case to Congress, where it holds considerable sway over lawmakers. Although Congress approved a 10-year ban on assault weapons in 1994, supporters didn’t have enough votes to keep it from expiring in 2004.

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