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Obama Can Do More on Gun Control
International

Obama Can Do More on Gun Control

US President Barack Obama is not doing all he can to stop gun violence, some allies say.
The president expressed disgust and frustration after Thursday’s mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, bemoaning the routine nature of such incidents and his own routine and fruitless calls for Congress to sharpen the nation’s gun laws, Sarah Wheaton writes for Politico.
“This is not something I can do by myself,” Obama said.
But gun control advocates say he has by no means exhausted the possibilities for executive actions and–echoing gun-rights hardliners–that there’s more the administration could do to enforce existing gun laws.
“Attention of the administration has shifted away from guns since the background check vote” in 2013, said Arkadi Gerney, a senior vice president at the Center for American Progress who was part of a band of gun control advocates working with the White House on its push for new legislation after the Sandy Hook shooting.

  Fast and Furious
In response to that massacre, Obama announced 23 executive actions–reporting “to have completed or made significant progress” on each of them by December of 2013–and followed up with two more last year.
But the administration is already back where they started on one of their most concrete accomplishments: nominating and winning confirmation for a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The Senate confirmed B. Todd Jones in July 2013–making him the first permanent director of the 2,500-agent division in more than six years–but he left in April to take a job at the NFL.
Jones won praise for shoring up the agency after scandals like the “Fast and Furious” gun-running mission and refocusing the agency on violent armed criminals. But gun-rights groups were enraged by his effort, shortly before his departure, to ban armor-piercing .223-caliber bullets.
The departure has once again left a “leadership vacuum,” said Gerney, who has called for the whole agency to be folded into the FBI.
The White House has announced no plans to nominate a permanent director.
“Acting Director Thomas Brandon is currently fulfilling the role and is providing the outstanding leadership the bureau needs at this time,” a White House official said.
Another of Obama’s moves was a new regulation released last year that broadened restrictions on gun purchases to include people who have been ordered by the court to receive outpatient treatment for mental illness–not just those who have been involuntarily committed to an institution. Hundreds of thousands more people are likely barred from buying a weapon as a result.
But the Justice Department is not using all the tools it has to ensure that the mental health background check system is complete.

  Lie and Try
A 2007 law–responding to the Virginia Tech shooting–offered states new money as inducement to contribute to the database, and it has since ballooned, growing from 300,000 mental health records to 3.7 million.
But there are more than 10 states that have submitted fewer than 100 records, and the attorney general has the power to punish them by withholding money, Gerney said. That has not happened.
“That is something the attorney general could do right now with a stroke of a pen,” he said.
The administration has also been sitting on a proposed regulation since January that would let mental health providers share information with the FBI database–a delay cheered by some privacy and mental health advocates.
Gun control activists have also called for Obama’s Justice Department to do a better job of tracking people who “lie and try” to buy a gun by putting false statements on background check forms–and prosecuting them.
The Justice Department referred questions to the White House on Friday morning, which did not immediately comment beyond pointing to a roundup of 2013 progress.
Ultimately, however “the onus is on Congress,” said Mark Prentice, a spokesman for Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was nearly killed in a mass shooting in 2011.
“We think the president and the administration have done a very good job of enforcing the laws on the books,” Prentice added. “Congress has shown itself to be pretty comfortable doing the bidding of the gun lobby.”
Though hardly sweeping, there is a chance new gun restrictions could make it through Congress this session, as part of a bipartisan criminal justice reform package introduced in the Senate on Thursday, hours before the shooting.
While much of the bill involves limiting the use of mandatory minimum sentences, it would actually increase mandatory minimums from 10 years to 15 years for certain categories of armed career criminals. It also includes measures to fix incomplete or inaccurate criminal history records in the FBI’s background check system.

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