With families of Newtown victims in the audience and concerned American children by his side, President Obama formally unveiled his proposals to deal with gun violence Wednesday.
The plan focuses on four areas: Closing background check loopholes, banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, providing schools with safety resources, and increasing access to mental health services.
"This is our first task as a society: keeping our children safe," he said. "This is how we will be judged, and their voices should compel us to change."
Obama called on Congress to pass many of the broad measures, like closing the background check loophole, re-instituting the assault weapons ban, and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
"Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in the movie theater," he said. Pointing out that even Ronald Reagan, who he described as "one of the staunchest defenders of the 2nd amendment," agreed on tht point.
The president also announced 23 executive actions he'll take to help reduce gun violence, including directing the CDC to conduct gun violence research and directing Attorney General Eric Holder to review categories of people prohibited from gun ownership to "make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks." That plan also includes a number of directives designed to help the mentally ill get proper treatment.
The full list of executive actions provided by the White House includes:
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
- Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
- Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
- Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
- Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
- Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
- Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
- Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
- Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
- Nominate an ATF director.
- Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
- Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
- Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies
- Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
- Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
- Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
- Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
- Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
- Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
- Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
- Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
Obama encouraged concerned Americans to play a role in the debate by keeping pressure on Congress. "The only way we can change is if the American people demand it," he said. "We're going to need voices in those congressional districts where the tradition of gun ownership is strong to speak up. It can't just be the usual suspects."