War Over Gun Controls Explodes Nationwide
Vice President Joe Biden met this week with government officials, victims of gun violence, retailers, media executives and firearm advocates on both sides of the issue as part of a task force designed to look for ways to combat gun violence in America, an issue that is provoking heated reactions from pro and anti-gun voices in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre and other mass shootings.
“We are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything, we’re going to do nothing. It’s critically important that we act,” Biden said, acknowledging that any type of firearm restrictions are likely to meet fierce resistance from Congress and the gun industry.
One of the outcomes of Biden’s talks is expected to be suggestions for ways the president could take action to combat gun violence through executive action, without seeking new laws to pass through a historically dysfunctional Congress.
Among the steps that the president could take without the buy-in of lawmakers:
- Appointing a director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which hasn’t had a permanent leader in place since 2006. The ATF could strengthen rules about how it tracks guns and regulates manufacturers and retailers.
- Prosecute felons and other people who are prohibited from buying guns but try to do so anyway. The government has sought prosecution of only 77 of the 71,000 cases referred to them by the FBI in 2009 alone.
- Improve reporting policies for people with mental illness in order to create a more comprehensive FBI background check database.
Biden’s report is due at the end of January.
Gun-rights advocates are already speaking out against the task force. “They’re talking about banning millions of firearms,” former NRA board member Dave Workman said. “The writing was on the wall when Joe Biden was put on that thing because he’s a gun grabber.”
Activists have dubbed January 19 “Gun Appreciation Day,” “urging Americans nationwide to visit local gun ranges and purveyors to show support for the Second Amendment.”
Gun News Around the Nation
Some states are looking at their own measures to curb access to the deadliest guns and accessories. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wanted the state to enact “the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation, period,” and has proposed closing loopholes in the state’s existing ban on assault rifles, as well as extending it to high-capacity ammunition magazines. He also called for follow-ups to ensure handgun permit holders still qualify for their license and tougher sentencing for perpetrators of gun crimes.
Meanwhile, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy put the emphasis on tighter federal controls, saying in a speech, “As long as weapons continue to travel up and down (Interstate Highway) I-95, what is available for sale in Florida or Virginia can have devastating consequences here in Connecticut.”
In other gun law news:
- The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which advocates are seeking to overturn a Georgia law that bans carrying guns in churches. Opponents of the law are also trying to do away with restrictions on carrying in government buildings and nuclear power plants.
- The NRA is threatening to sue to stop a gun buyback in Tuscon, Ariz., claiming that the plan to destroy the weapons is a violation of state law.
- Also in Arizona, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is launching a program that has armed volunteer posses patrolling elementary schools, in what he claims is an effort to ward off a Sandy Hook-like event.
- Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an attack that killed six people in Arizona two years ago, is starting a gun control lobbying group with her husband, Mark Kelly, in an attempt to balance the political clout exercised by the NRA.
- A conservative woman’s group has attacked a proposed federal ban on assault weapons, stating that it “will limit a women’s capability to fight back against attackers and protect herself and her family.”
- The NRA is holding a seminar in Nevada to teach elected officials how to use semi-automatic weapons.