Obama Unveils 23 Executive Orders for Gun Control

A little over a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting claimed the lives of 20 children and six adult staff members, President Barack Obama formally revealed his gun control plan during a White House event today.

In addition to calling on Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines, and implementing universal background checks on gun sales, eliminated the so-called “gun-show” loophole., Obama issued 23 executive orders. These orders are aimed at tackling gun control from a wide variety of angles.

But which of these executive orders are the most essential to Obama’s plans? Here are five key issues addressed by some of his executive orders, and why they are so important.

Background Checks

The first two executive orders listed among the 23 issued dealt specifically with background checks on gun sales. The first one requires federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system. The second one will eliminate legal barriers that may otherwise prevent states from providing relevant information to the background check system.

Obama also included incentives to entice states to share information with the system. Obama would love for Congress to beef up background checks for gun sales and make them universal across the board, but he also wants to strengthen the system that’s already in place.

More School Resource Officers

One of the executive orders Obama issued would provide incentives for schools to hire more school resource officers. School resource officers are essentially police “embedded” within a elementary, middle, or high school. They are in schools both to enforce laws and to educate students about the law, as well as to potentially serve as counselors.

Obama is trying to stake out a position that increases the police presence in schools, without resorting to some of the other ideas that conservatives have suggested, such as arming teachers, administrators, and other school staff, or putting armed police officers in schools — most school resource officers are not armed with guns.

Mental Health

Obama’s mental health push comes from three separate executive orders. One would send a letter to state health officials clarifying what mental health services must be provided by Medicaid plans. Another would finalize mental health parity regulations, ensuring mental health care costs are needlessly higher than other health care costs.

Most interesting is the order authorizing Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to launch a national dialogue on mental health. These orders are clearly meant as an alternative to the mental health database that the NRA called for in December.

New Research

Obama authorized the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes of gun violence, as well as ways to prevent it. Congress has previously banned the CDC from research that would “advocate or promote gun control”, but Obama feels there is legal precedent for an executive order to override that.

Appointing an ATF head

Believe it or not, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives hasn’t had an officially confirmed head since 2006. One of Obama’s executive orders nominated the bureau’s current acting director, B. Todd Jones, to be the permanent director.

Why hasn’t there been a permanent head for that long? In 2006, Congress made it so that the position, previously appointed by the president without any Congressional approval, now required Senate confirmation. Neither Bush nor Obama has had a nominee confirmed. In fact, Jones is the fifth acting director the agency has had since 2006. This has weakened the agency, and Obama clearly wants to put some teeth back into it.

For the complete list of executive orders issued, check out this New York Times website.

— Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPolitics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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