U.S. President Barack Obama became the center of the broiling debate on gun control in America Wednesday by issuing a series of executive orders meant to reduce gun violence and vowing to rally public opinion to pressure Congress into banning assault weapons.
As he signed his executive order during a public ceremony, President Obama was surrounded by children who wrote letters to the White House calling for the banning of guns. Family members of the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut also atteneded the event.
The 23 executive orders were made from proposals submitted by Vice President Joe Biden, who conducted a series of investigative committees into aspects of the issue last week. The actions include:
- Ensuring information on “dangerous individuals,” including mental health records, is available in the background system.
- Ending the freeze on gun violence research by declaring a 1996 law banning use of money to “advocate or promote gun control” from keeping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies from doing any work on the topic.
- Making schools safer with more resource officers and counselors, safer climates, and better emerency response plans; training school personnel to recognize signs of mental illness; and training more than 5,000 new mental health professionals to serve young people.
- Improving mental health and substance abuse treatment for those 16-25, and improving the public’s understanding of mental illness.
- Ensuring health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.
- Strengthening law enforcement’s hand by passing laws that would stop guns from getting into criminals’ hands, keeping 15,000 cops on the street, and eliminating restrictions that keep federal law enforcement from doing their job.
President Obama’s plan also includes four major legislative proposals, which are:
- Reinstate and strengthen the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which sunsetted in 2004
- Ban the sale and production of magazines with more than 10 rounds
- Require criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private ones
- Banning the possession or transfer of armor-piercing bullets and cracking down on “straw purchasers,” who pass criminal background checks and then transfer the weapons to those who cannot buy them.
“I will put everything I’ve got into this,” President Obama said during a ceremony signing his executive orders, “and so will Joe.”