Obama signs executive orders on gun control

President Barack Obama signs executive orders outlining proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama signs executive orders outlining proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama conducted a press conference yesterday in which he proposed stricter gun laws and called on Congress for extreme changes in order to combat mass shootings like that in Newtown, Conn. last month.

The president signed 23 executive orders, which will promote strict enforcement of the current gun laws, as well as increase communication between different agencies of government to prevent criminals getting guns.

In his press conference, the president touched upon having more in-depth background checks to keep weaponry out of the wrong hands. In addition, Obama said his administration would provide more resource officers – law enforcement officers who work to prevent juvenile crime in elementary, middle or high schools – for schools that request them.

Obama also said his administration will make sure mental health professionals know their rights when reporting someone who is threatening violence. He explained his plan to direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research why gun violence happens. He encouraged Congress to fund research investigating video games.

“Congress should fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”

Following Obama’s announcement, the National Rifle Association released an advertisement calling the president an “elitist hypocrite.” In the advertisement, it claimed the president was depriving schools of gun protection except for his own children’s.

Many think Obama’s beliefs on gun control fail to follow the Constitution. However, the president maintained that he believes in a citizen’s Second Amendment right to gun ownership.

“Let me be absolutely clear,” Obama said. “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.”

In much of the address, Obama relayed the message of Congress being an integral part of this process and how, in order for his propositions to work, they must be passed through the legislative branch.

Some prominent Republicans have responded to Obama’s gun proposals with opposition. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich called the recent efforts for gun control “amazing” because Obama’s political starting point, Chicago, is and has been known as the murder capital of the country. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said the efforts would never have prevented the shooting at Sandy Hook and the president’s proposals take away an American’s Second Amendment right.

“Making matters worse is that President Obama is again abusing his power by imposing his policies via executive fiat instead of allowing them to be debated in Congress,” Rubio said in a statement released following the Obama address. “President Obama’s frustration with our republic and the way it works doesn’t give him license to ignore the Constitution.”

Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort and one of 15 invited to meet with Vice President Joe Biden last week, said she was pleased with Obama’s address.

“We were asked to give our recommendations, and ours was to give background checks,” Bonavia said. “We were thrilled to see that was at the top of the proposal from the president today. Even in a state like Wisconsin where we really embrace our gun culture, this is something that is widely supported. Our elected officials have an obligation to take action.”

Paul Nolette, a professor in the department of political science, said Obama’s proposals are an attempt to put gun control higher on the national agenda but will be difficult to get through Congress.

“As far as the actual effects of today’s proposals themselves, I think they are pretty minimal,” Nolette said. “While there are a few things that the Obama administration can do unilaterally, most of what he’s proposing will require congressional approval. And that isn’t going to be easy in today’s political environment.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner released a statement saying his office will review the proposals.