Debate begins on Obama’s gun violence plan (Updated)

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 42 views 

President Barack Obama on Wednesday (Jan. 16) outlined a $500 million plan to address gun violence that includes a proposed ban on assault weapons and restrictions on magazine sizes.

The plan was criticized almost immediately by the National Rifle Association and several members of Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation, with U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., saying Obama’s outline resorts to “failed gun-control ideas of the past.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., suggested the best way to reduce gun violence is to enforce rules already in place rather than enact new laws or issue new rules.

“While I appreciate the President’s efforts to keep Americans safe, I believe the place to start is to enforce the laws on the books,” Pryor noted in a statement. “That being said, I will continue to look for areas of common ground, including funding for law enforcement in schools, implementing tracking systems for the mentally ill and criminals, and addressing violence in the media. Most importantly, I will be talking with my constituents in Arkansas as I vote on these issues in the future.”

After December's Newtown, Conn., school shooting that killed 20 children and six adults, President Barack Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to come up with a broad range of ideas to curb the nation's gun violence. Obama wants Biden to deliver policy proposals by the end of the month and Obama has vowed to move swiftly on the package, which is expected to include legislative proposals and executive action.

The package Obama unveiled Wednesday includes the following key points:
• Require background checks for all gun sales;
• Strengthen the background check system for gun sales;
• Pass a new, stronger ban on assault weapons;
• Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds;
• Finish the job of getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets;
• Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime;
• End the freeze on gun violence research;
• Make schools safer with new resource officers and counselors, better emergency response plans, and more nurturing school climates; and,
• Ensure quality coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people.

“While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love,” noted the White House statement.

Link here for a PDF presentation of the Obama “ Now Is The Time” plan to reduce gun violence.

Obama’s statement also indicated that returning to a weapons-magazine size restriction  would save lives.

“(T)he shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown all used magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which would have been prohibited under the 1994 law. These magazines enable any semiautomatic weapon to be used as an instrument of mass violence, yet they are once again legal and now come standard with many handguns and rifles. Congress needs to reinstate the prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds,” according to the statement.

The plan also asks Congress to approve a $4 billion package to retain jobs for 15,000 police officers around the country.

“One of the most important steps we can take to reduce gun violence is to keep police officers at their posts in our neighborhoods and communities. The President is calling on Congress to act on the Administration’s $4 billion proposal to help keep 15,000 cops on the street in cities and towns across the country,” noted the plan outline.

In his statement, Boozman said Obama’s plan is not a solution.

“While he is likely to find a broad base of support for some of his mental health directives and for providing incentives to hire school resource officers, his push for Congress to bring back the assault weapons ban and to limit ammunition is misguided. New laws are not the answer. Stricter enforcement of the laws on the books is where we need to start,” Boozman said. “There is plenty of evidence, both in our country and elsewhere, that proves simply disarming law abiding citizens does not help reduce violent crime. Firearms are the tools, not the cause. If we are serious about reducing gun crimes, we need to get to the root cause which includes addressing mental health issues in our country.  That is where we need to focus on finding a solution.”

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said it should be the job of Congress, not presidential executive orders, that addresses the causes of gun violence.

“As President Obama said today, there is no set of laws – nor a piece of legislation – that will prevent every tragedy. Limiting Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens is not the appropriate reaction to senseless acts of violence,” Womack noted in his statement. “Congress – rather than the President through Executive Orders – should instead look for ways to protect the people that are in keeping with our constitutional rights.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, issued this statement: “The mass murder at Sandy Hook was a horrific tragedy that warrants responsible steps to deter such killings in the future, which include reforming mental-health practices and removing obstacles to the defensive use of firearms by law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, not a single thing proposed by the president today would have saved a single child's life at Sandy Hook. Instead, the president would curtail law-abiding citizens' constitutional rights with extreme gun-control measures that have proven time and again not to reduce crime in general or mass murder in particular. Further, the president again is flaunting his disregard for our Constitution in bypassing open debate among the people's representatives in Congress. Joining what will be a bipartisan majority of both the House and Senate, I will oppose the president's unconstitutional policies and actions and staunchly support our Second Amendment rights.”

The National Rifle Association said Obama’s proposals target responsible gun users and not those who misuse weapons.

“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy,” noted the NRA statement. “The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law.  We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.”

Asa Hutchinson, who has announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the 2014 Arkansas governor’s race, has agreed to lead an NRA study of placing armed guards in schools.

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