WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Post, along with other news sources, is reporting that the Obama Administration has far higher aims for gun control than merely reinstating the ban that expired on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition during the George W. Bush’s last term.
Vice President Biden now leads a working group that is considering expansive measures that would include tracking the movement and sale of weapons by means of a national database, universal background checks, more thorough mental health checks, and harsher penalties for carrying guns near schools.
Biden opened proceedings on Thursday by joining top administration officials in a meeting with leaders from a number of law enforcement agencies. Speaking to the press, the Vice President said, “The president is absolutely committed to keeping his promise that we will act. We have to have a comprehensive way in which to respond to the mass murder of our children that we saw in Connecticut.”
Law enforcement representatives included Thomas Nee, president of the National Association of Police Organizations; Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, president of Police Executive Research Forum & Major Cities Chiefs Association; and Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police.
To counter the efforts of The National Rifle Association, the White House is working to create a coalition of unlikely partners. Among those potential supporters of the President’s vision for gun control is New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I). Bloomberg is a long-time vocal advocate for gun-control.
A less obvious partner, some insiders say, may be Wal-Mart, hardly a darling of the left. For Wal-Mart the reasons would be less altruistic and more economic. Wal-Mart and other gun retailers have an incentive to support closing a loophole that allows people to bypass background checks if they purchase firearms at gun shows. Gun shows, which are booming across the land, cut deeply in the wholesale giant’s gun sales.
One strategy to increase gun control restrictions was already in play before the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. This process would involve looking for measures that do not require congressional approval and can be implemented by executive order. Possibilities include changes to federal mental-health programs and modernization of gun-tracking efforts by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Simply coming up with one or two aspects of it really falls short of the magnitude of the gun issue in the country,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.
Wexler was among a dozen law enforcement leaders who met with Biden and other administration leaders at the Dec. 20 summit that included Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
The expired federal assault-weapons law banned the manufacturing of 19 models of semiautomatic guns classified as assault weapons, including certain rifles and shot guns. The law also banned ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. But it did not ban the sale of previously manufactured assault weapons or high-capacity magazines.
Since the law’s end, efforts in Congress over the past decade to reinstate the ban have faced resolute opposition from the NRA and the firearms industry and have failed to pass.
“As we get involved in these ad nauseam debates over the Second Amendment, our children are still at risk,” said Jon Adler, national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. “Debating is not the action verb we need to protect our children.”
But questions remain as to whether the Whitehouse and lawmakers are looking to simply reinstate the previous ban or push for something more. A number of sources are now reporting that Adam Lanza did not use an assault weapon at Sandy Hook but rather only carried hand guns into the school. Is there something more at work than outlawing sinister looking weapons that were even used at Sandy Hook? Only time will tell.