WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will propose sweeping regulations on gun ownership aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of those convicted of domestic violence and the mentally ill. It’s a move that is likely to set off a firestorm of criticism and opposition from gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners Of America (GOA) who argue such regulations would keep guns from people who are not dangerous and pose no risk of violence.
The Justice Department released a new list of rules that would address some of the increased regulations President Barack Obama called for after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, the Hill newspaper reported. At the time, Obama called for changes in the law to curb access to guns by those who are dangerous.
“These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change,” Obama said after the shooting that killed 26, including 20 children. “We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this.”
But Obama’s attempt to change the laws through Congress failed. A compromise bill in the Senate that would have imposed stricter rules about background checks was defeated after intense opposition lobbying from groups like the NRA and GOA.
The latest attempt by Obama will surely cause a rise in outrage among his opponents. The recent conspiracy theory surrounding the Jade Helm 15 training exercise was fueled by fears Obama was going to send the military to invade the state of Texas to confiscate guns. But in more than six years in office, Obama has to yet to win any changes to curb gun ownership.
The new regulations will surely send the same groups into a frenzy. “It’s clear President Obama is beginning his final assault on our Second Amendment rights by forcing his anti-gun agenda on honest law-abiding citizens through executive force,” Luke O’Dell, vice president of political affairs at the National Association for Gun Rights, told The Hill.
The proposed rules would prohibit ownership of a gun by someone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence crime. The rules would also prohibit the mentally ill from owning guns. Another regulation would impose requirements about gun storage. And the Department of Justice through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would regulate high-powered pistols, a controversial move since attempts to place restrictions on handguns have drawn intense opposition.
Groups pushing for changes to the nation’s gun laws have long called for stricter rules about the ability of domestic violence convicts to obtain and keep guns. Curbing access to guns, they argue, will result in a decrease of homicides in domestic violence cases.
The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control advocacy group based in California, detailed the potential for harm posed by domestic violence convicts being able to access firearms. Among other statistics, the group cited a 2003 study that found abused women were five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.
The group found that existing federal prohibitions against domestic violence convicts being able to hold guns have significant limitations -- which would be addressed in the new federal law -- that have prompted states to implement their own rules. For example, the existing federal rule doesn’t prohibit someone from owning a gun who committed acts of violence against someone they were dating instead of married to or someone who is the subject of a protective order.
“The risk of domestic violence being committed by a dating partner is well-documented,” the group said in a statement on its website. “In 2008, individuals killed by current dating partners made up almost half of all spouse and current dating partner homicides.”
A 2006 study by University of Washington professor Elizabeth R. Vigdor found that when states adopted laws that imposed gun restrictions on those who were under a restraining order, there was a 7 percent drop in homicides for female intimate partners. But she also found there was no change in homicide rates when states imposed confiscation laws for violent misdemeanors.
Earlier this year, the NRA successfully worked to kill a bill in Louisiana that would have prohibited those who were convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from owning guns. The group fought the proposed law that would have applied the gun prohibition to “dating partners,” not just those living together.
Like the Louisiana fight, gun rights groups argued the proposed federal rules would be too broad. “[The bill] is so overly broad that it could make a felon out of a girlfriend who pulls a cell phone from her boyfriend's hand against his will,” NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told the New Orleans newspaper the Times-Picayune.
Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for the GOA, had a similar warning. He told the Hill, “That could be a person who spanked his kid, or yelled at his wife or slapped her husband.”