From “The President Acts on Gun Violence” by the New York Times Editorial Board:
In the hope of combating America’s intolerable levels of gun violence, with Congress refusing to pass hugely popular gun-safety measures, President Obama is issuing a modest, limited set of executive actions on guns.
Most of the actions are aimed at making it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to get their hands on a firearm. But to listen to the Republican presidential candidates, who weighed in before they even knew the details, one would think Mr. Obama had declared martial law and called in the tanks.
On “Fox News Sunday,” former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said Mr. Obama’s “first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens.” Donald Trump told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “I don’t like anything having to do with changing our Second Amendment.” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, also on “Fox News Sunday,” dismissed the orders as “illegal” and called Mr. Obama, among other things, a “petulant child,” a “king” and a “dictator.”
Spare us the bluster. Mr. Obama is not taking away any law-abiding citizen’s guns or changing the Second Amendment. To the contrary, his actions are in line with the stated priorities of gun-rights activists: keeping guns from people likely to use them in crimes, and enforcing gun laws already on the books.
The editorial goes on to explain that gun sellers will be required to implement background checks for all sales and place limitations on multiple sales. The background check data base will be improved. The editorial notes that “In Virginia, follow-up investigations of those denied a gun because of a background check have led to more than 14,000 arrests.”
Further, “Other presidential actions include delivering a budget proposal with money for 200 new agents and investigators for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to help enforce existing gun laws.” Obama would also require “dealers to notify authorities when guns are lost or stolen in transit” expand “law enforcement access to mental-health records” and “funding for research into gun-safety technology.”
The editorial notes that “Congress could pass far more expansive and effective legislation, such as universal background checks, which have been associated with large declines in gun deaths in the 18 states that have implemented them.” However, “members of Congress, almost all of them Republican, have chosen to do the bidding of a gun lobby that is astonishingly out of step with the public. For years, about 9 in 10 Americans — and nearly as many households with a National Rifle Association member — have supported universal background checks, and yet the N.R.A. reflexively opposes them.”
Perhaps it’s time to frame gun violence as a central national security issue, as much as the threat of terrorism from outside the U.S. Indeed, Republicans in congress have been equally-reluctant to restrict access to automatic weapons by anyone and many more Americans have been killed by thugs with guns than by international terrorists of any sort.
Republican elected officials at every level have obediently followed NRA directives for decades. As a result, the death toll of Americans who might have been saved by reasonable restrictions on access to the most deadly weapons continues to mount.
Some Democratic office-holders in red states are understandably apprehensive about supporting any gun access restrictions. But a careful reading of opinion polls indicates that a number of reasonable, specific restrictions have broad support, especially when accompanied by a public education campaign.
For example, the public overwhelmingly supports background checks, restricting purchase and sale of automatic weapons and denying gun access to individuals on terrorist watch lists. It’s time for Democrats to provide stronger leadership on behalf of such popular measures, and President Obama’s initiative is a good beginning to address this long-lingering threat to our national security.