President Obama And Biden Gun Task Force End Up Where They Began


At the White House today, President Obama revealed the much-anticipated, (and weeks-early) proposals, from the Joe Biden-led gun violence task force, that he plans to push. While the media’s gyrations on the assault weapons ban have probably left many advocates of gun regulation feeling grateful it was even included, the legislative proposals that the President outlined this afternoon are exactly the ones he laid out when he announced Biden’s commission. No less, to be sure, but also no more.

When President Obama first announced the Biden task force, he laid down several markers on gun regulation, saying that “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all.”

Early on, before Vice President Biden began holding meetings with outside groups, reporting emerged that the Biden task force was considering a number of measures, including:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein‘s tougher ban on assault weapons and extended magazines
  • universal background checks for firearm buyers
  • national database to track the movement and sale of weapons
  • stronger mental health checks
  • penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors
  • changes to federal mental-health programs

At his press conference this morning, though, President Obama called on Congress to “restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines,” and “to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun.”

That’s it, legislatively. The President did sign 23 executive orders, but his calls for legislation went no further than what he suggested at that Dec. 19 press conference. No national database, no federal gun registry, no confiscation. Seriously, though, even his announcement on the assault weapons ban called for a “restoration” of the expired ban, which didn’t go nearly far enough, and had a completely open-ended grandfather clause. It’s likely the new ban will be tougher, but this gives him cover to let it get whittled down significantly along the way.

This is still an encouraging start, because the markers the President laid down from the outset were pretty good, but don’t let anyone try to tell you this was an “overreach.” There’s every indication that a lot was left on the table.

Now, it is up to Congress to act, and it is up to the media to quit giving them cover to kill the assault weapons ban by claiming it can’t pass the House. Maybe that was true in the pre-Newtown Congress, but nobody knows how such a vote would turn out now, if Speaker John Boehner ever allows such a vote. The problem isn’t getting Congress to vote for an assault weapons ban, it’s getting Congress to vote on one.

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