Editorial Boards Laud Obama's Executive Actions On Gun Violence As "An Important Step"


Newspaper editorial boards are urging support for President Obama's executive actions to curb gun violence, calling them "an important step," and "the beginning of sensible reform."

President Obama Unveils Executive Actions To Combat Gun Violence

Obama Announces Executive Actions On Gun Violence Including Expanded Background Checks In White House Speech. During a January 5 speech at the White House, President Obama detailed his plan to use executive actions to address gun violence. One key provision of his plan expands background checks by clarifying what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling firearms. The proposal also increases mental health funding, improves the efficiency of the national background check system database, ensures existing gun laws are enforced, and promotes the development of smart gun technology:

In a speech that veered from weepy to outraged and even comic, the president said his decision to exercise his executive authority -- a move that has infuriated many Republicans -- was an effort to prevent further violence and bring the country together on a divisive issue.

"I'm not on the ballot again; I'm not looking to score some points," he said, adding later that it was possible to reconcile the Constitution with additional restrictions on firearms. "We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people."

The package includes 10 provisions, White House officials said. One key provision would require more gun sellers -- especially those who do business on the Internet and at gun shows -- to be licensed and would force them to conduct background checks on potential buyers. Obama would devote $500 million more in federal funding to treating mental illness -- a move that could need congressional approval -- and require that firearms lost in transit between a manufacturer and a seller be reported to federal authorities.

At the president's direction, the FBI will begin hiring more than 230 additional examiners and other personnel to help process background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has established a new center to investigate illegal gun trafficking online and will devote $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network. [The Washington Post, 1/5/16]

Editorial Boards Of Major Newspapers Celebrate The Order As "An Important Step" That "Move[s] The Country In The Right Direction"

Washington Post: The Proposals "Move The Country In The Right Direction." The Washington Post editorial board commended Obama's executive order in a January 5 piece, writing the president "acted responsibly" to enact "worthwhile" changes noting that "the steps being taken by his administration move the country in the right direction":

PRESIDENT OBAMA on Tuesday outlined several modest and useful adjustments to gun-control policy. The modesty of the initiative is no fault of Mr. Obama's. On the contrary, he acted responsibly in not overstepping the bounds of his legal authority, and the changes that did result from a White House review of what is legally possible are worthwhile.


As Mr. Obama observed Tuesday, the issue of guns has become one of the country's most polarized, partisan debates. "How did we get here?" he asked ruefully. Tears streamed down his face as he remembered the children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The steps being taken by his administration move the country in the right direction, but in a rational world they would represent just the beginning of sensible reform. [The Washington Post, 1/5/16]

The New York Times: President Obama's Reforms Are "An Important Step" To Combat Gun Violence. On January 5, The New York Times editorial board called Obama's executive actions "an important step" to curbing gun violence, especially since the president "sometimes seems alone in Washington in his willingness to take on the issue of guns":

On Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, President Obama formally announced that he would be taking a series of executive actions -- all of them within his powers as president. It was an important step, since he sometimes seems alone in Washington in his willingness to take on the issue of guns. But none of his actions are aimed at taking weapons away from law-abiding citizens, and none will have that effect. In fact, there has been no bill in real contention in Congress for many years that would reduce the number of guns currently in circulation, or disarm any law-abiding Americans. [The New York Times, 1/5/16]

LA Times: Gun Safety Measures Proposed By Obama "Should By All Means Be Implemented." On January 5, The Los Angeles Times editorial board advocated for the implementation of Obama's executive actions stating, "there's nothing onerous" about any of the measures President Obama proposed to combat gun violence "and they should by all means be implemented":

Obama's modest steps, which the president detailed in a tearful speech Tuesday morning, will force nearly everyone engaged in selling firearms -- including online sellers and small-scale vendors at gun shows -- to become licensed federal gun dealers. That in turn will require them to conduct background checks on their customers to ensure that they are not barred from buying firearms because of felony convictions, domestic violence issues, drug addiction or other factors that Congress has said make people ineligible to own a gun. Under Obama's executive orders, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is finalizing new rules that would make it harder for people to avoid a background check by buying a gun in the name of a trust or corporation.

The president also intends to devote more resources to improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database, enforcing existing gun laws, and helping the mentally ill get treatment while streamlining the process through which their names are added to the database (some of those steps include expenditures that will require congressional approval). And Obama wants to leverage the buying power of the federal government -- the largest purchaser of weapons in the country -- to persuade gun makers to develop more "smart gun" technology that could reduce accidental shootings and make it harder for criminals to use stolen guns.

There's nothing onerous about any of those measures and they should by all means be implemented. [The Los Angeles Times, 1/5/16]

USA Today: Obama's Actions Are "Worthwhile" If The Measures "Make It Even A Little Harder For Criminals To Arm Themselves." USA Today's editorial board wrote on January 5 that if Obama's gun provisions "make it even a little harder for criminals to arm themselves, they're worthwhile." The board pointed to Jody Lee Hunt, a man who illegally bought a gun on Facebook and killed five people, including himself, arguing that he never should have been able to buy a gun and "if Obama's proposals ... make it harder for the Jody Lee Hunts of the world to arm themselves, then good":

For all the furor over President Obama's actions on guns Tuesday, the details are much tamer than the bold restrictions he proposed almost three years ago after the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adults at a school in Newtown, Conn. Congress refused to pass any of those, and little has happened since besides more mass shootings. Now the president has settled for a modest list that includes mostly tweaks to regulations and promises to hire more people to enforce existing laws.

Among other things, the president would clarify the definition of who's a gun dealer in ways that would require more buyers to undergo background checks -- a move that would shrink but not close the notorious gun show loophole.


One thing is true, however: People who could never pass a background check do buy guns without one, sometimes with fatal consequences. Jody Lee Hunt, a West Virginia man whose five years in prison made him ineligible to legally buy a gun, instead bought one from someone on Facebook and used it a little more than a year ago to shoot his ex-girlfriend and three other people before shooting himself.

That's exactly the kind of person who should never be able to buy a gun. If Obama's proposals survive court challenges and make it harder for the Jody Lee Hunts of the world to arm themselves, then good. [USA Today, 1/5/16]

Chicago Tribune: Executive Action Is "A Rational Attempt" To Address Gun Violence, Which Is "Long Overdue." On January 5, The Chicago Tribune editorial board called Obama's reforms to curb gun violence "a reasonable adjustment of regulations" stating they would "curb a clear abuse of the law by unscrupulous or careless sellers." The board wrote that the actions are "a rational attempt to make it harder for people who are barred from owning guns to buy guns. And it's long overdue":

The change would fall short of the universal requirement Obama urged Congress to enact, but it would expand the number of sales triggering background checks, creating a new hurdle for felons seeking guns. It would also curb a clear abuse of the law by unscrupulous or careless sellers.


This step appears to be a reasonable adjustment of regulations in order to fulfill the purpose of an existing statute. In November, a group of 23 law professors signed a letter saying, "Executive action to ensure robust enforcement of the law -- including issuing clarifying guidance and directing comprehensive enforcement of federal gun laws -- is entirely compatible with the will of Congress and the president's constitutional authority."

It's not a cure-all -- just a rational attempt to make it harder for people who are barred from owning guns to buy guns. And it's long overdue. [The Chicago Tribune, 1/5/16]

Chicago Sun-Times: Obama's Proposals Are "The Only Hope In Immediate Progress" For Gun Safety Reform. On January 5, The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board wrote that "a majority of the American people really do support sensible, common-sense reforms" and because "sensible measures to reduce violence have been blocked in Congress ... the only hope of immediate progress lies in Obama's executive actions and in legislation on state and local levels":

Behind President Barack Obama's executive actions on guns Tuesday is this truth: A majority of the American people really do support sensible, common-sense reforms.

For example, Americans consistently have told pollsters they want expanded background checks for firearms purchases -- as many as 92 percent in an October CBS News/New York Times poll, including 87 percent of Republicans. In that poll, nearly 80 percent thought people with mental illness shouldn't be able to buy guns, 70 percent wanted a federal database to track all gun sales, and 57 percent favored a ban on assault-style weapons.

Those are powerful numbers. It may come slowly, but we believe such broad support bodes well for progress against gun violence.


Sensible measures to reduce violence have been blocked in Congress, which is why the only hope of immediate progress lies in Obama's executive actions and in legislation on state and local levels. [Chicago Sun-Times, 1/5/16]

Baltimore Sun: Obama's Reforms "Include A Raft Of Common Sense Measures." On January 4, The Baltimore Sun editorial board supported President Obama's efforts to curb gun violence, writing that Obama "is right to insist that he can act" on the issue. The board lauded the measures as "common sense" adding that "it would be unconscionable" for the president "not to use every power at his disposal to try" and stop gun violence:

Frustrated by Congress' unwillingness to act in the wake of mass shootings that have killed or wounded dozens of people in recent years, President Barack Obama has decided to issue a series of executive orders this month to strengthen the nation's gun laws. The president's proposals, which are due to be fleshed out this week, are said to include a raft of common sense measures aimed at cracking down on unregulated gun sales and making it harder for people who shouldn't own firearms to get them -- the sort of steps that lawmakers in Washington should have approved years ago. It's a pity that during his final year in office Mr. Obama finds himself in the position of having do Congress' work for it, but he is right to insist that he can act, at least to some degree, even if Congress won't.


In 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, some 33,000 Americans died from firearms-related homicides or suicides and another 84,000 were wounded. The annual cost in lives of gun violence in America exceeds that of most small wars. Mr. Obama may be limited in what he can do on his own to change that -- what he can achieve is by no means the extent of what's necessary -- but it would be unconscionable for him not to use every power at his disposal to try. [The Baltimore Sun, 1/4/16]

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