Less than a month after a shooting rampage in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school ended the lives of 20 children and six adults -- the second-deadliest school shooting in United States history -- the Obama administration is finally ready to tackle the problem of gun ownership in America, the Washington Post reports. A task force led by Vice President Joe Biden is hoping to go beyond reinstating the oft-cited assault weapons ban in its quest to reduce the nation’s gun violence, according to the newspaper, citing individuals involved in the administration’s discussions.
The task force, reportedly formed in December following the fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, plans to submit a series of recommendations to President Barack Obama this month. The measures under considering may go as far as requiring universal background checks for firearm buyers, establishing a national database to track the movement and sale of weapons, increasing regulations for mental health checks and strengthening penalties for carrying firearms near schools.
“They are very clearly committed to looking at this issue comprehensively,” Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Washington Post.
The Obama administration is already preparing for the inevitable attacks it will face from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups, who argue any additional regulation placed on gun ownership is a violation of Americans’ Second Amendment rights. The NRA itself neglected to release any public comment on the Newtown shootings for several days following the tragedy. Eventually, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre suggested the best way to prevent future shootings was to place armed guards in “every school in this nation,” apparently forgetting that Colorado’s Columbine High School, the site of the highly publicized 1999 shooting spree, had an armed guard, who failed to prevent the massacre. In fact, there has only been one reported incident when an armed citizen was able to bring down a potential school shooter.
LaPierre announced the NRA plans to develop a “model national schools shield emergency program” to combat school gun violence. Other pro-gun advocates apparently believe the best way to avoid future school shootings is to place more, not fewer, guns in schools. An Ohio-based Armed Teacher Training Program that would provide firearms training to teachers and school staff has already attracted more than 600 applicants from at least 15 states, an Ohio Fox News affiliate reports.
But opponents point out that the questionable reforms proposed for schools don't do anything to address the nation’s epidemic of gun violence -- inside and outside of the classroom. There have been at least 62 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982, according to a comprehensive analysis from Mother Jones, which defines a “mass shooting” as an event that took the lives of at least four people.
Seven of those shootings took place in 2012. Those events, including the Aurora movie theater massacre in July, Wisconsin’s Sikh temple shooting in August, the Minneapolis workplace shooting in September and December’s Newtown tragedy, killed 151 people in 2012.
Almost all of the firearms used were obtained legally. According to Mother Jones, semiautomatic handguns were the preferred weapons used by the perpetrators (68), followed by assault weapons (35), revolvers (20) and shotguns (19).
If it stays at the same pace, American gun deaths are expected to exceed motor vehicle fatalities by 2015, according to a Bloomberg News investigation.
Several lawmakers have filed bills intended to address gun violence in the wake of the Newtown shootings. Four of those were filed by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was shot to death in 1993. The congresswoman has proposed instituting criminal background checks on all firearms transactions at gun shows, requiring the face-to-face purchase of ammunition and the reporting of bulk ammo purchases, prohibiting the transfer or possession of large capacity ammo clips and creating a national database for individuals prohibited from purchasing firearms.
The most well-known proposal is set to come from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who plans to introduce legislation this month to reinstate the now-expired federal assault weapons ban. The revamped law would ban the sale or manufacture of about 120 firearms, including semiautomatic rifles and military-style handguns.
The previous ban, which expired in 2004, only prohibited the manufacturing of 19 semiautomatic guns classified as “assault weapons.” But it did not ban the sale of weapons manufactured before the ban took effect in 1994.