On Tuesday January 5th, President Obama addressed the need for stricter gun control across the United States in light of his proposed four-part executive order to prevent future mass shootings.
He also discussed the issue at a town hall meeting on gun violence in Virginia on Thursday January 7th. A teary-eyed Obama referenced mass shootings from recent years.
President Obama’s executive order aims to enforce the current gun laws and prevent gun ownership sales without background checks, suicides and accidents. The most well known and controversial part of Obama’s plan involves closing loopholes in gun laws by mandating that gun sellers have a license and ensure that gun buyers undergo background checks.
“If you buy [a gun] online or if you buy it in one of these gun shows, you could have a criminal record–you could be a felon–and no one has to do a background check on you and they can still sell you the gun,” Advanced Placement United States Government teacher, Silvio Vargas said.
Customers may legally purchase a firearm at a gun show or online without verifying that they have a license or undergoing a background check currently, both mandatory steps in buying a firearm at a larger gun company. Obama claimed during his speech that 90 percent of Democrats in the Senate supported a plan that included background checks for nearly everyone who buys a gun, which failed in the Senate because 90 percent of Republicans opposed it, and the party owns majority rule in the Senate. Despite this, the president said that most Americans backed the plan to restrict gun sales.
“There are a lot of people in Congress, mostly Republicans, that are controlled by money from the [National Rifle Association],” Vargas said. “If Congress is not going to be willing to do anything, it’s up to him to do something. That’s what he’s trying to do.”
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump vowed to repeal Obama’s executive order if he becomes President, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan denounced the plan, saying that Obama disrespects the Second Amendment and that the plan is unconstitutional.
“There’s this idea that if you start adding limitations to your second amendment rights that over time people are just going to want to get rid of the second amendment, and I think that’s ridiculous,” Vargas said. “If you want to have a handgun to defend your family and your home, no one’s against that.”
Junior Katia Suris agrees that something needs to be done about these issues, but she does not believe that gun control is the route that needs to be taken. As a conservative whose dad built a gun once for pleasure, she not only stands with the Republicans in this case, but understands the laws regarding the purchase of guns and gun parts.
“Obama is putting too much of an effort into making it more and more difficult to be a gun owner. Guns aren’t the issue, education regarding weapons is the issue,” Suris said. “We need to understand guns and other weapons more. Too many people [including Obama] don’t understand weapons or the need for self defense.”
The second part of Obama’s executive order focuses on enforcing current gun laws. The President is planning to increase funding for The Federal Bureau of Investigation, (FBI) as well the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and press gun dealers to accurately report guns that are missing or stolen. He also plans to work with the private sector to create safer gun technology, to prevent accidents. The final part of the executive order includes investing $500 million into treatment for the mentally ill, as well as making any mental illnesses part of background checks.
Obama’s aim in adding this extra background check requirement is not only to prevent another mass shooting such as Sandy Hook in 2012, (which he referenced) but also to prevent suicides, which account for ⅔ of gun-related deaths annually. This is a newer angle, as there is currently a misconstrued perception that mentally ill people are dangerous and more prone to gun violence. People rarely focus on them as the victims, but Obama aims not only to prevent them from hurting others, but especially from becoming victims of a combination of their illness and the availability of guns.
“People with mental illnesses should have the [same] easy access to professional help as they do to purchase a gun in this country right now,” junior Charles Noguera said. “Extensive background checks will determine whether or not those who suffer from mental illness can purchase a firearm.”