President Obama released details of his plan to curb gun violence. It is a broad series of executive actions and proposals he urged Congress to pass. Specifically, he wants to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that expired under the administration of President George W. Bush.
Obama referred to the Colorado movie massacre last year in making his case to prohibit the future sale of military-style rifles and high-capacity magazines.
"That's what allowed the gunman to shoot 70 people, killing 12," said Obama. "Weapons designed for theater war have no place in a movie theatre."
The president also called for universal background checks, and a new federal law to crack down on gun trafficking.
"We should get tougher on people who buy guns for the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals."
Obama also announced 23 executive actions to beef up enforcement of existing laws, improve training for counselors, and step up research into what triggers gun violence.
President Obama's 23 executive actions:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
Transcript of President Obama speech:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you everybody, please, please have a seat. Good afternoon everybody. Let me begin by thanking our Vice President Joe Biden for your dedication Joe to this issue, for bringing so many different voices to the table because while reducing gun violence is a complicated challenge, protecting our children from harm shouldnt be a divisive one.
Over the month since the tragedy in Newtown, weve heard from so many and obviously none have affected us more than the families of those gorgeous children and their teachers and guardians who, who were lost. And so were grateful to all of you for taking the time to be here and recognizing that we honor their memories in part by doing everything we can to prevent this from happening again.
But we also heard from some unexpected people, in particular I started getting a lot of letters from kids. 4 of them are here today, Grant Fritz, Julia Stokes, Taejah Good. They are pretty representative of some of the messages that I got. These are some pretty smart letters from some pretty smart young people.
Taejah, a third grader - you can go and wave Taejah, thats you (Laughter). Taejah wrote, I feel terrible for the parents who lost their children. I love my country and I want everybody to be happy and safe. And then Grant - go ahead and wave Grant (laughter). Grant said, I think there should be some changes. We should learn from what happened at Sandy Hook. I feel really bad.
And then Julia said - Julia where are you - there you go. Im not scared for my safety, Im scared for others. I have four brothers and sisters and I know that I would not be able to bear the thought of losing any of them. And these are our kids. This is what they are thinking about.
And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them and shield them from harm. And give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they are capable of doing, not only to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe.
This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change. And thats why last month I asked Joe to lead an effort along with members of my cabinet to come up with some concrete steps we can take right now to keep our children safe. To help prevent mass shootings, to reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country.
And we cant put this off any longer. Just last Thursday, as TV networks were covering one of Joe meetings, on this topic, news broke of another school shooting this one in California. In the month since 20 precious children and 6 brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun.
900. In the past month. And every day we wait that number will keep growing. So Im putting forward a specific set of proposals based on the work of Joes task force. And in the days ahead I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality.
Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely. No piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil. If theres even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if theres even one life that can be saved, then weve got an obligation to try.
And Im going to do my part. As soon as Im finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence. We will make it easier to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system.
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 then the perpetrator.
And while year after year, those who oppose even modest gun safety measures have threatened to defund scientific or medical research into the causes of gun violence, I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it. And Congress should fun research into the affects that violent video games have on young minds.
We dont benefit from ignorance. We dont benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence. There are few of the 23 executive action that I am announcing today. But as important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute from action from members of Congress.
To make a real and lasting difference, Congress, too, must act. An Congress must act soon. And Im calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away. First its time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. (Applause)
The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks and over the last 14 years that has kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun. But its hard to enforce that law when as many as 40% of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check
Thats not safe. Thats not smart. Thats not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers. If you want to buy a gun whether its 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. This is common sense. And an over whelming majority of Americans agree with us on the need for universal background checks. Including more than 70% of the National Rifle Association members, according to one survey. So theres no reason we cant do this.
Second, Congress should restore a ban on military style assault weapons and a ten-round limit for magazines. [APPLAUSE]
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 thats what allowed the gunman in Aurora to shoot 70 people, 70 people, killing 12 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. [APPLAUSE]
And finally Congress needs to help rather than hinder law enforcement as it does its job. We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody that helps them do this.
Since Congress hasnt confirmed the director of the bureau of alcohol, tobacco and firearms in six years. They should confirm Todd Jones who has been acting and I will be nominating for the post. [APPLAUSE]
And at a time when budget cuts are forcing many communities to reduce their police force, we should put more cops back on the job and back on the streets.
Now let me be absolutely clear, like most Americans I believe the second amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible law abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection.
I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the 2nd amendment while keeping an irresponsible law breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown.
Thats what these reforms are designed to do. They are common sense measures. They have the support of the majority of the American people. And yet that doesnt mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement. If it were, wed already have universal background checks. The ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines never wouldve been allowed to expire. More of our fellow Americans might still be alive celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and graduations.
This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of the tyrannical all out assault on liberty. Not because thats true. But because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes theyll do everything they can to block any common sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.
The only way we will be able to change is if their audience, their constituents, their membership says this time must be different. That this time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids. I will put everything Ive got into this and so will Joe. But I tell you, the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.
And by the way, that doesnt just mean from certain parts of the country. Were going to need voices in those areas and those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up and to say this is important. It cant just be the usual suspects. We have to examine ourselves and our hearts and ask ourselves what is important. This will not happen unless the American people demand it.
If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters and sportsmen, if responsible gun owners, if Americans of every background stand up and say enough, weve suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue. Then change will come. Thats what its going to take.
You know, on the letter that Julia wrote me, she said I know laws have to be passed by Congress, but I get you to try very hard. [LAUGHTER] Julia, I will try very hard. But shes right. The most important change we can make depend on congressional action. They need to bring these proposals up for a vote. And the American people need to make sure that they do.
Get them on record. Ask your member of Congress if they support universal background checks to keep guns out of the wrong hands. Ask them if they support renewing a ban on military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines. And if the say no, ask them why not.
Ask them whats more important. Doing whatever it takes to get an A grade from the gun lobby that funds their campaigns or giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade? [APPLAUSE]
This is the land of the free and it always will be. As Americans we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But weve also long recognize, as our founders recognize, with rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same. We dont live in isolation. We live in a society. A government of and by for the people. We are responsible for each other.
You know, the right to worship freely and safely, that right was denied to Sikhs in Oak Creek Wisconsin. The right to assembly peacefully, that right was denied shoppers in Clackamas, Oregon and moviegoers in Aurora, CO. That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Fundamental rights that were denied to college students in Virginia Tech and high school students in Columbine and elementary school students in Newtown. And kids on street corners in Chicago on too frequent a basis to tolerate. And all the families that never imagined theyd lose a loved one to a bullet. Those rights are at stake. Were responsible.
You know, when I visited Newtown last month, I spent private time with many of the families who lost their children that day. And one was the family of Grace McDonnell. Graces parents are here. Grace was 7 years old when she was struck down. Just a gorgeous, caring, joyful little girl. Im told she loved pink. She loved the beach. She dreamed of becoming a painter. And so just before I left Christ, her father, gave me one of her paintings. And I hung it in my private study, just out the oval office.
And every time I look at that painting, I think about Grace. I think about the life that she had 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 25 other innocent children and devoted educators that had so much left to give. For the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victim to senseless violence each and every day.
For all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm. Lets do the right thing. Lets do the right thing for them and for the country we love so much. [APPLAUSE] Thank you. Im going to sign these orders. [APPLAUSE]
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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