In the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, President Obama vowed to move quickly to curb gun violence. Just days before taking office for a second term, he delivered, outlining a thoughtful and comprehensive set of proposals, the most sweeping gun-control legislation in a generation.
By acting on a broad front, the Obama administration correctly recognized the complexity of the problem. Many parts must work together if the nation is to confront the issues raised by yet another mass shooting.
Critical elements of the plan, such as renewing and strengthening the ban on assault weapons and renewing the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, require congressional action. So do requiring universal background checks for all firearms sales and banning civilian purchases of armor-piercing ammunition.
The president also hopes to steer modest amounts of money toward other aspects of the problem, funding research on media and video game influences on violence and helping educators and law enforcement agencies put officers in schools. Schools and mental-health agencies would get some much-needed funds to counsel and provide mental-health services to students.
Even before the details emerged, the National Rifle Association made plain its top priority was making sure every school in America has an armed guard, its latest ad shamefully accusing President Obama of hypocrisy for opposing the plan while his daughters have Secret Service protection.
The NRA’s knee-jerk response after Obama’s speech was more of the same, the organization pressing for school security, fixing a “broken” mental-health system and vigorous prosecution of violent criminals.
While welcome consensus appears to be developing over universal background checks and a more comprehensive national database of those whose legal or mental-health histories make them ineligible to purchase firearms, Congress must go much further. Its members must buck the NRA, moving to embrace the full range of common-sense solutions outlined by the president.
The president also signed 23 exectutive actions to toughen enforcement of existing laws and encourage federal and state agencies to share information. Thankfully, he also lifted a ban that stopped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting research on gun violence, the results providing a sound basis for policymaking.Another small but welcome initiative encourages police department to hire school resource officers through community policing grants.
As befits a wide-ranging initiative, the president is reaching out for support in what promises to be a bruising fight, properly engaging the public to restart a rational debate on a national problem.