Reporting Tim Kephart
South Florida Crime
WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – In a potentially historic move, President Barack Obama revealed some of the most far-reaching gun control policy reforms in more than a decade. The plans are drawing partisan support and scorn from local and national politicians.
Flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, who headed a review process of gun laws, President Obama’s policies include both executive actions not requiring Congressional approval, and other prescriptions that must be passed through Congress.
A total of 23 provisions were included in the executive actions.
- Click here to read the full plan from the White House
“This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe,” President Obama said during his press conference. “This is how we will be judged. We can’t put this off any longer.”
The president said in a statement about the new policies: “Most gun owners are responsible and law abiding, and they use their guns safely. The President strongly believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. But to better protect our children and our communities from tragic mass shootings like those in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Tuscon, there are four common-sense steps we can take right now.”
The statement continued, “The President’s plan includes: 1. Closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands; 2. Banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and taking other common-sense steps to reduce gun violence; 3. Making schools safer; and 4. Increasing access to mental health services.”
President Obama signed 23 executive actions on Wednesday that included: make sure information about potentially dangerous people who are barred from having guns is available to the national background check system; lift the ban on research into the causes of gun violence; make sure doctors know they can report credible threats of violence by their patients; put more resource officers and counselors in schools; and ensure millions of
Americans get quality mental health coverage, according to the White House.
Among the proposals that require Congressional approval, President Obama wants criminal background checks for all gun sales, a reinstated assault weapons ban, a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, banning armor-piercing bullets, and instituting a federal gun trafficking statute, the White House said.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz believes these measures will help keep Americans safe.
“What’s gonna solve this problem is a comprehensive approach,” she told CBS 4′s Carey Codd. “Universal background checks — right now 40 percent of the gun sales taking place in this country, the person buying the gun doesn’t ever go through a background check.”
The President’s plan would also call for increased access to mental health services and safer schools with more school resource officers and requiring schools to have comprehensive emergency management plans in place.
“I think that school safety is one of the biggest issues we face today and if we don’t have more security we’re just putting the kids at risk,” said Artie Leichner, with the United Teacher’s of Dade.
At Bill Boyd’s Tackle Shop in Fort Lauderdale there are strong opinions for gun rights advocates along with strong sales for guns and ammunition.
Store Manager Roy Gosley believes the president’s plan would only water down the 2nd amendment.
“More laws isn’t the solution to any of the problems,” Gosley said. “It’s enforce the laws that we have and give the police better tools to enforce them with.”
Others at the store — like certified firearms trainer Eric Reid — said he doesn’t agree with banning guns but said background checks should occur every time a gun is sold.
“It’d be a shame knowing that I teach people and thinking that there are people out there who can actually buy a weapon from someone who hasn’t done a background check,” said Reid. “It really bothers me.”
As for the President’s legislation, the chances of getting all or even any of those recommendations past Congress appear slim as Congressional Republicans have declared almost any gun control plan dead on arrival in the House of Representatives.
Senator Marco Rubio released a statement following the president’s speech which said the President was targeting the 2nd Amendment and “imposing his policies via executive fiat.”
“President Obama is targeting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence,” Senator Rubio said in his statement. “Rolling back responsible citizens’ rights is not the proper response to tragedies committed by criminals and the mentally ill. Making matters worse is that President Obama is again abusing his power by imposing his policies via executive fiat instead of allowing them to be debated in Congress.”
Rubio’s statement and opposition to the president’s policy proposals could help him politically with gun enthusiasts. But, Rubio’s staunch opposition to any gun control the president mentioned goes against recent national polling, even among National Rifle Association members, that supported some pegs of the president’s plan.
Florida’s senior Senator, Bill Nelson, said the President wasn’t “proposing an assault on the Second Amendment.”
“Why in the world would we not want to check to see if a person buying a weapon has a criminal record?,” Senator Nelson said in a statement. “And why wouldn’t we want limits on assault weapons like AK-47s? People are buying assault weapons to kill others, not to hunt. And when assault rifles are used to kill children, it’s time for America to act. ”
Freshman Congresswoman Lois Frankel, a Democrat, offered her support for the president’s plans announced Wednesday.
“Today President Obama unveiled common-sense proposals and took action to reduce gun violence and make our communities and our country safer without infringing on the 2nd Amendment,” Congresswoman Frankel said.
“People in South Florida and across America have the right to be free from violence when they send their kids to school or go to the movies and that’s why it is so important we act now.”
The National Rifle Association, which lobbies on behalf of the gun-making industry, has previously said it would oppose the president’s plans. The NRA released a web ad earlier Wednesday that attacked the President as an “elitist hypocrite” and used the president’s children as an example.
The NRA released a statement late Wednesday that read in part, “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…Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crises we face as a nation.”