Early look at likely gun control proposals

January 15, 2013 12:45 p.m. - Updated: 12:46 p.m.

President Barack Obama will unveil proposals Wednesday to curb gun violence, his response to the December massacre of 26 students and teachers at their elementary school in Newtown, Conn. The plan is to be based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, Obama’s point man for producing gun control measures to present to Congress.

Some of the proposals will require congressional action and will face an uphill battle from lawmakers, particularly in the Republican-led House. The National Rifle Association says it will fight any legislative attempts to limit access to guns and ammunition.

Obama could put other proposals in place by executive order.

A look at some of the proposals Obama is expected to announce:

Congressional action required

• Banning assault weapons. Obama has spoken in support of such a measure. Congress passed a 10-year ban on high-grade, military-style weapons in 1994, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. But supporters didn’t have the votes to renew the law when it expired in 2004. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., predicted that such a ban might clear the Senate this time around but he doubted it could get through the House.

• Limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines. Obama also has spoken in support of limiting access to these items, like the ones used by the Newtown shooter.

• Requiring background checks for all gun buyers. Obama has spoken in support of broader background checks. Currently, people who buy guns at trade shows and through some other private purchases, such as over the Internet, are not required to submit to background checks. Gun control advocates long have wanted Congress to close the “gun-show loophole.” The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has urged Obama to make broader background checks his top priority, believing it has the best chance to win congressional approval.

• Installing a permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The agency has had an acting director for some time.

Executive order

Biden has identified 19 potential actions the president could take on his own, according to Jenny Werwa, communications director for California Rep. Jackie Speier, who was among a group of House Democrats who met with the vice president on Monday. Among the actions Biden is believed to have recommended:

• Ordering tougher penalties for people who lie on background checks; only a fraction of these cases currently are prosecuted. Such a step has support from the NRA, which argues that existing laws must be enforced before new ones are considered.

• Elevating gun trafficking to a felony.

• Ending limits that make it more difficult for the government to research gun violence, such as gathering data on guns that fall into criminal hands.

• Giving schools flexibility to use federal grant money to improve school safety, such as by hiring school resource officers.

• Giving communities grants to institute programs to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

Additionally

• Obama’s proposals also are expected to include recommendations to address violence in entertainment and video games. The NRA and other gun-rights groups argue that insufficient mental health care and violent images in the media are more to blame for mass shootings than the availability of guns.

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