Speaking on the first lunaversary of the day he pledged comprehensive gun control, President Obama today signed orders to do just that.
Following an opening speech by Vice President Biden, who had been compiling proposals on how to lessen gun violence, Obama announced his plans.
The president began by demanding Congress pass legislation for universal background checks for anyone attempting to purchase a firearm. While the current law requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, most guns shows and private sellers are under no such obligations.
“But it’s hard to enforce that law,” the president said. “When as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That’s not safe. That’s not smart. That’s not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers.”
Calling it “common sense” for the government to ensure universal background checks forfirearms, Obama said:
“If you want to buy a gun, whether it’s from a licensed dealer, or a private seller, you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks, including more than 70 percent of the National Rifle Association’s members according to one survey. So there’s no reason we can’t do this.”
He also called for Congress to restore the assault weapons ban (see presidents who’d supported the assault weapons ban), as well as a ten-round limit on all magazines.
“The type of assault rifle used in Aurora, for example, when paired with high capacity magazines has one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible as quickly as possible, to do as much damage using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage. And that’s what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot seventy people — seventy people — killing twelve. In a matter of minutes.
“Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie theater. A majority of Americans agree with us on this. And, by the way, so did Ronald Reagan, one of the staunchest defenders of the Second Amendment, who wrote to Congress in 1994, urging them — this is Ronald Reagan speaking — urging them to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of military-style assault weapons.”
Obama also addressed the issue of Congressional support for law enforcement officials by enacting tougher laws against sellers who purchase guns with the expressed purpose of reselling them to known criminals.
In addition to the twenty-three executive actions, Obama also spoke on the subject of mental illness, and school safety:
“We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them, and develop emergency preparedness plans. We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence, even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.”
The president acknowledged that — even in the wake of Aurora and Sandy Hook, and even as polls show that most Americans approve of new and strengthened gun control laws — that the battle to actually accomplish his executive proposals would be an uphill battle:
“This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical all-out assault on liberty, not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear for higher ratings, or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any commonsense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”
The president wrapped up the press conference by talking about his recent visit to Newtown, Connecticut, and the families he met — some of whom were present in the audience. Gesturing to a man and woman in the front row, whose daughter had been a victim of the shootings, the president mentioned how the couple had given him a painting made by their seven-year-old daughter, Grace.
“I hung it in my private study just off the Oval Office,” he said. “And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace, and I think about the life that she lived and the life that lay ahead of her.
“And most of all, I think about how when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now, for Grace, for the twenty-five other innocent children and devoted educators who had so much left to give; for the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victims to senseless violence each and every day; for all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm.
“Let’s do the right thing. Let’s do the right thing for them and for this country that we love so much.”
“Let’s sign these orders” the president said. And with that, he moved directly to a desk and with the pen in his left hand, hunched forward, and began signing.