Obama going to act on guns, says Biden
US president Barack Obama is considering the use of an executive order to restrict access to guns or ammunition in the wake of nationwide revulsion over the Connecticut school shootings, vice-president Joe Biden said yesterday.
Such a move would be deeply controversial for the gun lobby, but Mr Biden said the president was determined to explore every legislative avenue.
“The president is going to act,” Mr Biden said, in a briefing to reporters before the inaugural meeting of a new national task force on gun control. “Executive order, executive action that can be taken, we haven’t decided what that is yet. But we’re compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and the rest of the cabinet.” Mr Biden did not specify what kind of action Mr Obama might take.
In the past the administration has used executive orders, which have the force of law, to require gun dealers to report when customers buy multiple high-powered rifles and to increase penalties for violating gun laws. A new order, nearly certain to face legal challenges, could seek to tighten enforcement of laws governing private sales of guns or to beef up background checks.
“We are not going to get caught up in the notion that unless we can do everything we’re going to do nothing,” Mr Biden said. “It’s critically important that we act.”
Any unilateral action by the president will inflame gun advocates, who argue that gun sales are constitutionally protected under the second amendment and who equate gun control with tyranny. Gun rights groups are organising a “Gun Appreciation Day” to coincide with Obama’s second inauguration as president at the weekend.
Mr Biden said that the December 14th massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, in which 20 young children were shot dead in their classrooms by a man armed with a semi-automatic rifle, had mobilised the nation to act. “Every once in a while there’s something that awakens the conscience of the country, and that tragic event did it in a way like nothing I’ve seen in my career,” he said.
The national task force includes the victims of mass shootings and gun control advocates. The group plans to meet today with representatives of the National Rifle Association and gun retailers. It is expected to deliver recommendations as early as mid-month.
New York could become the first state to pass gun control laws after the Connecticut massacre, aides to Governor Andrew Cuomo said yesterday.
Politicians in Albany worked late into the night on Tuesday to agree new rules to further restrict the sales of assault rifles and large-capacity magazines, and to require the regular renewal of gun permits, among other measures.
The National Rifle Association has vocally opposed calls for new gun control legislation. It says more guns are needed to improve public safety.
“If it’s crazy to call for armed officers in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” NRA head Wayne LaPierre said a week after the Connecticut shooting.
Deaths from guns are on pace to surpass traffic deaths in the US by 2015, according to a Bloomberg News study. In 2011 – the latest year for which detailed statistics are available – there were 12,664 murders in the US. Of those, 8,583 were caused by firearms, down 3 per cent from a year earlier.
– (Guardian service)