Proposals Abound as Obama Creates Gun Task Force in Wake of School Shooting
President Barack Obama on Wednesday called for quick action on proposals to prevent gun violence, but congressional Democrats have already offered numerous ideas since the Connecticut school shooting last week.
At a press conference, Obama said he is charging an interagency task force, headed by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to “come up with a set of concrete proposals no later than January, proposals that I then intend to push without delay.” He said the group would include Cabinet members and outside organizations.
“Over these past five days, the discussion has re-emerged as to what we might do not only to deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day,” Obama said. “That conversation has to continue, but this time the words need to lead to action.”
An aide to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday that Republicans would wait to consider a legislative response to the Connecticut shooting until after receiving the task force’s recommendations.
“When the vice president’s group makes specific proposals, we will take a look,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “Right now our focus is, and should be on, the victims, their families and their community.”
Obama outlined several measures he wants to see move through Congress, including an assault weapons ban, a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and mandatory background checks at gun shows. Democratic lawmakers have talked about all of those changes — and others — in recent days. Here is a look at the legislative proposals that have been suggested since the shooting:
Assault Weapons Ban
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says she will introduce legislation early next year to reinstate the 1994 ban on assault weapons, which lapsed in 2004. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., says he will push the proposal in his chamber as well. Feinstein is suggesting her new bill will be stronger than the original ban — a possible response to concerns from some gun control advocates that the previous law contained too many loopholes to be effective.
Reps. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Diana DeGette, D- Colo., are lobbying for their legislation, which has languished in committee since January 2011, that would ban ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds. Feinstein favors including such limits on high-capacity ammunition as part of an assault weapons ban. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., says he will reintroduce legislation in January to ban the online or mail-order sales of ammunition.
Gun Show Loophole
Lautenberg has also vowed to try to close the “gun show loophole,” which allows people to purchase guns from unlicensed dealers at gun shows without going through a criminal background check.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wants to allow governors the power to activate National Guard troops who could replace police officers at their desk jobs to allow more police to protect schools. She also wants to increase funding for schools to install tip lines, surveillance equipment, metal detectors and other safety measures. Another component of her legislation would create a task force between the Justice and Education departments to develop new school safety guidelines.
Violence in Media
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is pushing a bill calling for a National Academy of Sciences study on whether violent video games and television programming lead to aggressive behavior in children or have lasting negative effects. He says the Connecticut shooting should prod action from Congress to stem children’s exposure to violent content.
Sens. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., are backing the creation of a special commission to explore solutions to gun violence. But a commission likely would move more slowly than the interagency task force that Obama created to produce recommendations by January.