Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, in which 26 people were murdered, President Obama said, "We can't tolerate this anymore." The massacre of 20 children started a real conversation on gun regulation. For the first time in my memory, politicians and pundits were both discussing the need for gun regulation. Speaking at a vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, Obama said, "These tragedies must end, and to end them, we must change.” As most Americans, the President was visibly disturbed by the Sandy Hook tragedy. During his speech, he brought up the topic of gun regulation and said, "In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies like this.” Today, Obama signed 23 executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence in America.
I have not yet been able to find the complete listing on any governmental website, stunningly, not even on the Whitehouse’s own site. I will update this article to include a link to the complete listing when I am able to find it on a federal website. Considering the amount of gun violence in this country, a few of the orders are quite strong and long overdue. While others are important, their immediate impact is less clear, such as nominating a Director to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF).
I find a few of the orders worthy of more attention. Of the 23 orders, I think the one that has the potential to be the most important is the Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. In 1996, the Republican controlled Congress removed 2.6 million dollars that had been allocated to the CDC’s budget for the purpose of studying gun violence. That same year, legislation was passed that exclusively prohibited the CDC from spending money on any research that would “advocate or promote gun control”. As a result of this legislation, the CDC has not conducted any research into gun violence. That 17 year ban has just ended. The CDC will now be free to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. I can hear the anti-science heads of right wingers across the nation exploding at the thought of science being applied to the problem of American gun violence.
Obama’s actions today ensure that the gun safety conversation will continue. He called on Congress to pass legislation to ban assault weapons, limit the size of magazines and require a background check for the sale of any gun. Most of the proposals seem like common sense solutions and not the acts of a power hungry tyrant as they are portrayed by the gun lobby and their toadies in office. Indeed, one Missouri State Representative (I’m not naming him because he’s an idiot) introduced legislation that he said would block the effects of any executive order from interfering with the gun rights of Missouri residents. Seriously, how do some of these people win elections?
I am very pleased with the executive orders issued by Obama today. Gun regulation is necessary. The gun lobby is very powerful. It is very likely that they have the money to buy all the politicians that they will need to prevent any meaningful legislation from being passed. I am glad that Obama acted today. Passing real gun regulation will be very difficult in the current political environment. I am hopeful that today was only the first step in what will be a long process.