White House Preparing Broad Push For Gun Violence Reduction

The Obama administration is set to harness the mood of the country in the aftermath of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary to enact wide-ranging efforts to reduce gun violence, according to the Washington Post.

Vice-President Joe Biden was named by President Obama in the days after the massacre to head a task force charged with finding ways the government could act to prevent further shootings. What seems to be emerging following discussions between the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and Education is a much broader set of ideas that would seek to clamp down on gun violence throughout the country.

Beyond reinstating the lapsed Assault Weapon Ban and enacting bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines, the White House is reported to be considering instituting universal background checks for gun buyers, boosting mental health checks, putting into place a national database to track the movement and sale of weapons, and locking in harsher penalties for carrying guns in the vicinity of schools.

Faced with a potentially harsh Congress and efforts by pro-gun lobbyists to hamper such moves, the task force is also considering ways to work around those roadblocks:

In addition to potential legislative proposals, Biden’s group has expanded its focus to include measures that would not need congressional approval and could be quickly implemented by executive action, according to interest-group leaders who have discussed options with Biden and key Cabinet secretaries. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

In doing so, the administration has made clear that it is willing to take on the National Rifle Association and other special interest groups to reduce the impact of firearms in America. Among the ways the White House is seeking to outflank their opponents, according to the Post story, is by working both by working in tandem with law enforcement officials and in convincing businesses like Walmart of the economic benefit to be had in reform.

Despite a growing coalition willing to take on gun violence, the rumored proposals are already receiving pushback from pro-gun members of both parties as memory of the devastation of Sandy Hook begins to fade. On ABC’s This Week, incoming Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) referred to the Washington Post’s reporting to say that the measures seemed “extreme” and would not pass. Likewise, incoming Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) indicated that he was of the belief that further gun safety legislation would be “unconstitutional.”