President Obama Unveils Comprehensive Gun Control Policy
In a press conference (see video above), President Obama said that 900 gun deaths have taken place since the Sandy Hook Massacre a month ago. The President asked congress to pass a universal background check law, strengthen the background check system, place a ban on assault weapons and impose a ten round limit on gun magazines. In addition, he asked for law enforcement to improve communications between mental health personnel and law enforcement. On a new White House webpage he also asked congress to finish the job of getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets, give law enforcement new tools to investigate and prosecute gun crime including passing stronger laws to stop those who would put guns into the hands of criminals, put an additional 15,000 cops on the street, eliminate restrictions that keep federal law enforcement from doing its job and end a freeze on gun violence research.
The website also said
“The Administration is calling on Congress to help schools hire up to 1,000 more school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors, as well as make other investments in school safety. We also need to make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan so they are prepared to respond to situations like mass shootings. In addition, the Administration is proposing to help 8,000 schools put in place proven strategies to prevent violence and improve school climate by reducing bullying, drug abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors.”
“Though the vast majority of Americans with a mental illness are not violent, we need to do more to identify mental health issues early and help individuals get the treatment they need before dangerous situations develop.”
“We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.”
“The Administration is proposing steps to identify mental health issues early and help individuals get the treatment they need before these dangerous situations develop. "
The President also asked the congress to appoint B. Todd Jones, US Attorney for the District of Minnesota to be appointed as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) which has remained vacant since 2006 as a result of congressional inaction. Jones’s recent record of accomplishment can be found here. Previously, Mr. Jones was a corporate defense attorney and served in the military.
The President’s Memorandums and other recommendations are largely consistent with expert recommendations with one possible exception. It is not clear to what extent the President’s approach would provide better integration of mental health services and law enforcement efforts, particularly in terms of mental health services for youth.
Another expert recommended avenue not mentioned by the President is parent education to limit children’s exposure to media violence. Most scientists argue that there already exists sufficient scientific evidence to make recommendations that encourage children, teachers and parents to teach children more cooperative strategies as opposed to violence problem solving strategies and to avoid over-exposure to media violence. Experts also recommend teaching children that media violence is not real. Some politicians responded to the President’s proposals by arguing that it’s important to improve gun control before attempting other measures because it will make it easier to defeat gun control measures. Others argued that these fears are unjustified.
Below is the full text of three Presidential Memorandums that President signed in response to the Sandy Hook shootings. They include twenty-three new agency actions for his administration.
Presidential Memorandum — Improving Availability of Relevant Executive Branch Records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Improving Availability of Relevant Executive Branch Records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
Since it became operational in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has been an essential tool in the effort to ensure that individuals who are prohibited under Federal or State law from possessing firearms do not acquire them from Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs). The ability of the NICS to determine quickly and effectively whether an individual is prohibited from possessing or receiving a firearm depends on the completeness and accuracy of the information made available to it by Federal, State, and tribal authorities.
The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 (NIAA) (Public Law 110-180) was a bipartisan effort to strengthen the NICS by increasing the quantity and quality of relevant records from Federal, State, and tribal authorities accessible by the system. Among its requirements, the NIAA mandated that executive departments and agencies (agencies) provide relevant information, including criminal history records, certain adjudications related to the mental health of a person, and other information, to databases accessible by the NICS. Much progress has been made to identify information generated by agencies that is relevant to determining whether a person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms, but more must be done. Greater participation by agencies in identifying records they possess that are relevant to determining whether an individual is prohibited from possessing a firearm and a regularized process for submitting those records to the NICS will strengthen the accuracy and efficiency of the NICS, increasing public safety by keeping guns out of the hands of persons who cannot lawfully possess them.
Therefore, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby direct the following:
Section 1. Improving the Availability of Records to the NICS. ( a ) Within 45 days of the date of this memorandum, and consistent with the process described in section 3 of this memorandum, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall issue guidance to agencies regarding the identification and sharing of relevant Federal records and their submission to the NICS.
( b ) Within 60 days of issuance of guidance pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, agencies shall submit a report to DOJ advising whether they possess relevant records, as set forth in the guidance, and setting forth an implementation plan for making information in those records available to the NICS, consistent with applicable law.
( c ) In accordance with the authority and responsibility provided to the Attorney General by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (Public Law 103-159), as amended, the Attorney General, consistent with the process described in section 3 of this memorandum, shall resolve any disputes concerning whether agency records are relevant and should be made available to the NICS.
( d ) To the extent they possess relevant records, as set forth in the guidance issued pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, agencies shall prioritize making those records available to the NICS on a regular and ongoing basis.
Sec. 2. Measuring Progress. ( a ) By October 1, 2013, and annually thereafter, agencies that possess relevant records shall submit a report to the President through the Attorney General describing:
(i) the relevant records possessed by the agency that can be shared with the NICS consistent with applicable law;
(ii) the number of those records submitted to databases accessible by the NICS during each reporting period;
(iii) the efforts made to increase the percentage of relevant records possessed by the agency that are submitted to databases accessible by the NICS;
(iv) any obstacles to increasing the percentage of records that are submitted to databases accessible by the NICS;
(v) for agencies that make qualifying adjudications related to the mental health of a person, the measures put in place to provide notice and programs for relief from disabilities as required under the NIAA;
(vi) the measures put in place to correct, modify, or remove records accessible by the NICS when the basis under which the record was made available no longer applies; and
(vii) additional steps that will be taken within 1 year of the report to improve the processes by which records are identified, made accessible, and corrected, modified, or removed.
( b ) If an agency certifies in its annual report that it has made available to the NICS its relevant records that can be shared consistent with applicable law, and describes its plan to make new records available to the NICS and to update, modify, or remove existing records electronically no less often than quarterly as required by the NIAA, such agency will not be required to submit further annual reports. Instead, the agency will be required to submit an annual certification to DOJ, attesting that the agency continues to submit relevant records and has corrected, modified, or removed appropriate records.
Sec. 3. NICS Consultation and Coordination Working Group. To ensure adequate agency input in the guidance required by section 1( a ) of this memorandum, subsequent decisions about whether an agency possesses relevant records, and determinations concerning whether relevant records should be provided to the NICS, there is established a NICS Consultation and Coordination Working Group (Working Group), to be chaired by the Attorney General or his designee.
by Todd Miller
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