President Barack Obama published an op-ed Thursday in the Connecticut Post, urging lawmakers to “act soon” on his recommendations to reduce gun violence, a day after announcing sweeping proposals that included 23 executive orders.
The president touted those measures, based on suggestions from Vice President Joe Biden’s gun safety task force, in the Connecticut Post. Those proposals include improving existing background checks and closing the so-called gun show loophole, making mental health screenings accessible and instituting a ban on military-style assault weapons.
Congressional Republicans and the nation’s pro-gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, have said they will oppose additional firearm restrictions. Critics claim Obama’s proposals are a violation of the Second Amendment and will do nothing to combat the nation’s epidemic of gun violence.
In response to December’s elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., the NRA suggested posting armed guards in schools to increase public safety. The Connecticut shooting, which moved gun control to the forefront of the national conversation after a year that saw multiple mass shootings, ended the lives of 20 small children.
Here is the full text of Obama's op-ed:
As a society, our first task must be to care for our children -- to shield them from harm and give them the tools they need not only to pursue their dreams, but to help build this country. That is how we will be judged. And in the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, it's clear we have a long way to go.
That's why, last month, I asked Vice President Biden to lead an effort to come up with concrete steps we can take right now to keep our kids safe, help prevent mass shootings, and reduce the broader epidemic of gun violence in this country. And on Wednesday, I put forward a specific set of proposals based on Joe's recommendations. Because while there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence -- if even one life can be saved -- we have an obligation to try.
As President, I'm committed to doing my part. That's why I signed 23 executive actions giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals, and the public health community the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.
These actions ranged from strengthening our background check system, to helping schools hire more resource officers and counselors if they want them, to directing the Centers for Disease Control to study the best ways to reduce gun violence.
But as important as these steps are, making a real and lasting difference also requires Congress to act, and act soon.
First: it's time for Congress to require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun. Right now, as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check. That's not safe, it's not smart, and it's not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers. An overwhelming majority of Americans agree with me on the need for universal background checks. There's no reason we can't get it done.
Second: Congress should restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and a 10-round limit for magazines. Many assault rifles, when paired with high-capacity magazines, have one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible, as quickly as possible. Weapons designed for theaters of war have no place in movie theaters. And a majority of Americans agree.
Finally, Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job. They should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And at a time when budget cuts are forcing many communities to reduce their police force, we should put more cops back on the job and back on our streets.
Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in this country who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting, or sport; protection, or collection.
But I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from doing harm. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Connecticut. And that's what these commonsense reforms are designed to do.
None of this will be easy. Already we're seeing pundits, politicians, and special interest lobbyists warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty -- not because it's true, but because it gins up fear, or higher ratings, or more revenue for themselves.
The truth is, there's only one voice powerful enough to make this happen: yours. If you think we've suffered too much pain to allow this to continue, put down the paper, turn off the computer, and get your Members of Congress on record. Ask them if they support universal background checks or renewing a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if they say no, ask them why not. Ask them why getting an A-grade from the gun lobby is more important than giving parents some peace of mind when they drop their child off for first grade.
This is the land of the free, and it always will be. As Americans, we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights that no man or government can take away from us. But we also recognize that along with those rights come responsibilities. Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same.
It's time to do the right thing -- for the 26 innocent children and devoted educators who lost their lives in Newtown, for the men and women in big cities and small towns who fall victim to senseless violence each and every day, and for this country we love so much.