In his third-in-five-days presser, Preezy Obama announced today his “first step on gun control following the Newtown school shootings” — an “interagency” Gun Violence Task Force.
Veep O’Biden will be “charged with guiding the administration’s continuing response,” Politico reports.
- According to a White House official, the president likely won’t make significant policy announcements but will instead explain how his administration will determine what to do next.
Obama spoke Monday with Biden and three Cabinet secretaries – Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — “to begin looking at ways the country can respond to the tragedy in Newtown,” the White House said. …
Though Obama has long said he favors reinstating the 1994 assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, he has spent almost no political capital as president to enact any new restrictions on gun rights, despite mass shootings in Tucson, Ariz., Oak Creek, Wis., and Aurora, Colo., before Newtown. …
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday reiterated Obama’s past support for the idea of an assault weapons ban and closing “the so-called gun show loophole.” Carney said the president could also back a prohibition on high-capacity ammunition clips like those used in the Aurora and Newtown shootings.
Apart from pushing Congress to pass new gun laws — which faces many obstacles, including GOP control of the House for the next two years — Obama has a few steps he could take on his own, like a broader requirement that gun dealers to notify the government of any purchase of multiple semi-automatic weapons. Such notifications are already required in the four states that border Mexico.
Oopsies! That last reference must not have been well thought out. Guns. Mexico. Ever heard of ATF’s gunwalking scandal, Fast and Furious?
So. What are the possibilities? Let’s turn back the clock to June 1989, when former CIA director George H.W. Bush occupied the Oval Office.
A congressionally-mandated study (as part of narcotics control legislation) by a Justice Department task force on how to keep guns out of the hands of felons came up with two major options unacceptable to Bush’s Attorney General, Dick Thornburgh.
WaPo reported that the first option was “a national registration card for gun owners”, with the second a “broader national identity card for all citizens that would contain information on criminal records.”
Thornburgh had until November 18 to pick an option and commence its implementation in December.
The devil’s deal resulted from a 1988 “Republican-engineered compromise, heavily backed by the gun lobby, that defeated a bill that would have required a seven-day waiting period before a handgun purchase.”
Sent up as an “official trial balloon”, the options were considered food for thought, not necessarily implementation.
Left unsaid is the fact that neither of these options would have been acceptable to Progressives.
- Thornburgh regards an identity card as “an infringement on rights of Americans and believes that is not the way to tackle this problem” … Thornburgh opposed a similar plan in the 1970s when he was assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division …
The national identity card has been strongly opposed by civil liberties groups and Congress. A registration card just for gun owners is strongly opposed by the gun lobby. …
The 40-page study grouped possibilities in two general approaches. One method would be aimed at potential gun buyers and would require them to show certification that they have no criminal record.
The second method involves the country’s 270,000 gun dealers and would require them to contact local and federal police agencies to search computerized records before making any of the 7.5 million annual weapons sales.
At the time, there was “no existing requirement at the federal level for any check on a gun purchaser’s criminal record.” As the federal law required then, and now, gun purchasers were “required to sign a federal form stating they have no criminal convictions.” The forms, however, were not verified then although “29 states and the District [required] that gun dealers check that customers have no criminal history.”
How a national identity “smart card” would work was further explained in July 1989:
- The [gun] dealer, along with his federal firearms license, has a “reader” that checks the smart card. A fingerprint, given at the dealership, must match the fingerprint electronically imprinted on the card so the dealer knows the bearer is the same person to whom the card was issued. … the card shows that [a purchaser] is entitled to purchase a weapon, and the dealer completes the sale. In doing so he makes an electronic record of the purchaser of that particular shotgun so if it’s used later in a crime, law enforcement authorities can trace it.
Money is always a factor, of course: “The costs of the two systems vary dramatically. The task force estimated that setting up a national telephone check of current records might cost as much as $44 million, and then $70 million a year to run.
“But a system of immediate checks via smart cards could cost nearly $600 million to set up and nearly $300 million a year to maintain.”
Ultimately, in November 1989, the Justice Department chose to kick the can down the road.
Thornburgh’s proposed plan for background checks — although not guaranteed to be fool proof — is the one which currently operates:
- The system supported by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh would require gun dealers to make telephone checks through a nationwide computer system to determine whether a prospective buyer has a criminal record. But, according to the sources, Thornburgh’s long-awaited proposal to have “point-of-sale” telephone checks of prospective gun buyers does not provide for immediate implementation as required by Congress because of major gaps in record-keeping about criminal convictions.
The FBI web page on federal gun checks informs:
- The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is all about saving lives and protecting people from harm—by not letting guns and explosives fall into the wrong hands. It also ensures the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers.
Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998, NICS is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives. Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or to other designated agencies to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible to make a purchase. More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials.
- The number of federally required background checks of prospective gun purchasers has nearly doubled in the past decade — a time when violent crime has been in long decline in many places across the USA, according to FBI records.
The bureau’s National Instant Check System (NICS) does not track actual firearms sales — multiple guns can be included in one purchase. But the steady rise in background checks — from 8.5 million in 2002 to 16.8 million in 2012 — tracks other indicators that signal escalating gun sales.
The same article predicted the future ahead of the Connecticut shootings:
- No gun-control legislation was passed in President Obama’s first term and no major proposal was offered during the 2012 presidential election campaign.
Still, there is an “expectation” that new gun-control proposals will surface in Obama’s second term, said National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. “People expect a siege on the Second Amendment (right to bear arms).”
Obama logic? Never let a nationally-televised opportunity go to waste. He’s not.
But how O’Biden’s task force plans to connect the gun control dots from the current system to foretelling the future about which undiagnosed, untreated or non-compliant mentally ill person will commit an atrocity like the one in Connecticut remains to be seen.