WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced a series of gun-control measures on Wednesday - including proposals for enhanced background checks and a ban on military-style assault weapons - that are aimed at reducing gun violence after the shooting of 20 children and six adults at a school in Connecticut last month.
Here are the main proposals, broken down into action that Obama wants Congress to take and moves that the White House can accomplish without congressional approval, through executive orders.
- Require criminal background checks on prospective buyers in all gun sales. A White House summary of Obama’s plan calls this “the single most important thing we can do to prevent gun violence and mass shootings.” Federally licensed firearms dealers now are required to run background checks on gun buyers, but studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from the requirement.
- Renew and strengthen the federal ban on sales of military-style assault weapons that was in effect 1994-2004. A 2010 survey by the Police Executive Research Forum found that more than one-third of police departments reported an increase in criminals’ use of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines since the prohibition ended. Bringing back the ban would be difficult because of opposition from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress.
- Reinstate a ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Like expanded background checks, this is likely to have more support in Congress than an assault weapons ban.
- Ban the possession of armor-piercing ammunition and its transfer to anyone other than the military and law enforcement.
- Increase punishments for gun trafficking, particularly by unlicensed dealers or “straw buyers” who purchase arms for criminals.
- Provide $30 million in one-time grants to states to help school districts develop and implement emergency management plans.
- Approve the White House’s $4 billion proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the streets.
- Confirm a director for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF has not had a director for six years. The National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun-rights group, has pushed to weaken the ATF’s authority to enforce gun laws and prevent the agency from having strong leadership.
- Give $150 million to school districts and law enforcement agencies to hire school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors. This would put up to 1,000 new school resource officers - specially trained police officers who work in schools - and school counselors on the job.
- Reach 750,000 young people through programs to identify mental illness early and refer them to treatment. A new initiative, Project AWARE (Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education) would provide training for teachers and other adults who regularly interact with students to recognize young people who need help and ensure they are referred to mental health services.
- Make it easier for states to make information - notably about those with mental health issues - available to the background check system.
- Direct the Centers for Disease Control and scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence.
- Direct U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
- Launch a national responsible gun ownership campaign.
- Require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
- Nominate a director for the ATF.
- Ensure that every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan. A 2010 survey found that although 84 percent of public schools had a written response plan in the event of a shooting, only 52 percent had drilled their students on the plan during the previous year.
- Finalize requirements for private health insurance plans to cover mental health services under the healthcare overhaul of 2010.
Reporting by Alistair Bell; Editing by David Storey