White House Unveils Gun Control Measures

White House Unveils Gun Control Measures

The White House unveiled a framework of measures and initiatives aimed at reducing gun and school violence in the U.S.  They don’t include specific legislation but do make a series of recommendations to Congress, as well as states, to push through stricter gun-control proposals.

The White House is encouraging states to provide “rigorous” firearms training for “specially qualified” school personnel with the help of the Department of Justice and local law enforcement.  They’ve also called on states to institute extreme risk protection orders, which allow authorities to remove firearms, with a court order, from individuals who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others.  They also temporarily prevent those individuals from purchasing new firearms.

The administration has also established a commission that will find the best and most workable solutions to gun violence in schools.  The commission will be chaired by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and will look at “hardening” the nation’s schools through the arming of teachers as well as possibly raising the eligibility age to purchase firearms.

“I am humbled to chair the Federal Commission on School Safety which will help bring forward solutions and identify best practices from state and local communities that will truly work to keep students safe,” DeVos wrote on Twitter after the announcement.

No timeline for the commission was announced but administration officials expect its recommendations to be implemented in schools within the year.

The President called on Congress to pass two pieces of legislation.  The first, the so-called FixNICS Act, is designed to make the National Instant Criminal Background Check System function more effectively by incentivizing states and federal agencies to do a better job of keeping the background system updated with the latest information about individuals who should be prevented from purchasing firearms.

The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate although the pathway for passage in the House has proven to be trickier.

The second is the Stop School Violence Act, which directs $50 million a year to helping schools identify warning signs of violence in students and take action to intervene before it occurs.

The bill has strong support in the House and was introduced in the Senate last week by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  “There must be a process for acting on this information when it is brought to the attention of school administrators or law enforcement,” Hatch said from the Senate floor.  “The school threat assessment and crisis intervention teams that could be funded through this bill will ensure that schools have an effective procedure for evaluating and responding to potential threats of school violence.”

President Trump also directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to ban the sale of bump stocks, the accessory that increases a gun’s firepower, and the attorney general took steps over the weekend to implement that ban.

He, however, seems to be backing off earlier calls for expanding background checks for firearms purchases and for raising the eligibility age for gun purchases from 18 to 21.  Both are provisions he has called for in the past.

“You have to be very, very powerful on background checks. Don’t be shy,” the President said during a meeting with members of Congress last month at the White House.  “I’d rather have you come down on the strong side than the weak side. The weak side is easier to do.”

The President did not repeat calls for either initiative in last night’s announcement.

There have been repeated calls from students, parents and lawmakers for the White House and Congress to take action to stem the tide of mass-, and specifically school shootings in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School attack that left seventeen dead, mostly students, in Parkland, FL, last month.

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a comprehensive gun-control bill into law last week that prohibits individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 from purchasing firearms, bans bump stocks, gives law enforcement the ability to seize guns and ammunition from individuals deemed to be mentally impaired and allocates $67 million to a provision that arms school teachers so long as both the local school district and sheriff’s department agree.

The bill had wide support in the Florida State Legislature, although it is being challenged by the NRA on the basis that raising the eligibility age for gun purchases infringes on individuals’ Constitutional rights.