In an address to the public Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama announced that he will sign 23 executive actions that provide law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community more tools to combat gun violence.
The actions include launching a responsible gun ownership campaign, having the Consumer Product Safety Commission review standards for gun safes and locks, nominating a director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and directing the Center for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
Obama also want to improve incentives and look at removing any unnecessary legal barriers that may prevent states from sharing information with the federal background check system, a move that could help legislation similar to State Representantive Todd Stephen's bill that would add Pennsylvania's mental health records to the national database.
The President's announcement comes from recommendations presented by Vice President Joe Biden after he and other Cabinet members conducted meetings with representatives from the gun, video game and health care industry as well as religious leaders and advocacy groups.
As Obama uses the power of the Executive Office to address gun safety, he has also called on Congress to enact stricter laws and statutes in the months to come.
"To make a real and lasting difference," Obama said in a prepared statement, "Congress, too, must act - and Congress must act soon. And I’m calling on Congress to pass some very specific proposals right away."
The President has proposed the following:
- Require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun;
- Ban military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit on magazines;
- Harsher punishments for illegal gun sales and trafficking;
- Act on the administration's $4 billion proposal to keep 15,000 police officers employed;
- Confirming the nomination of Todd Jones as ATF director.
"I intend to use whatever weight this office holds to make them a reality," Obama said in a statement released by the White House. "Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence – if even one life can be saved – we have an obligation to try."
The actions take place 33 days after 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., were killed in a shooting that shook the nation. The tragedy brought shined a bright spotlight on the gun debate, as gun control supporters demanded stricter legislation while many gun owners resented what they saw as a politicization of the massacre.
Response was swift after Obama presented his proposals. The National Rifle Association released a short but direct statement to the media.
"Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation," the organization said in the statement. "Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy."
Local officials also weighed in on the stronger push for new gun control measures. Representative Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) applauded the administration's announcement, calling it a "comprehensive plan to keep guns out of the wrong hands."
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) stressed the need for a bipartisan approach to the issue that includes input from all branches of the government. He recognized the need for the proposed measures and the need for stronger enforcement for current laws.
"Our focus should be on measures which have the widest positive effect that have the support of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress," siad Fitzpatrick in a statement released by his office. "My sense is those include background checks and mental health records reporting with the goal of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people."