Yesterday, President Obama unveiled a series of new executive actions designed to decrease gun violence. They largely focus on expanding background checks and tightening enforcement. Here is the Fact Sheet that details the new executive actions.
What you will not find: A proposal to get rid of guns, in any way, at all.
The four goals of the executive actions are: 1. Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks. 2. Make our communities safer from gun violence via "smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws. The President's FY2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws." 3. Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system. 4. Shape the future of gun safety technology by "review[ing] the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and [exploring] potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety."
Does anyone believe that adding 200 more law enforcement officers is going to reduce gun violence? Of course, the numbers of people killed by police officers with guns is not of concern here:
Gun violence has taken a heartbreaking toll on too many communities across the country. Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence—and millions more have been the victim of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving a gun. Many of these crimes were committed by people who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place. Over the same period, hundreds of thousands of other people in our communities committed suicide with a gun and nearly half a million people suffered other gun injuries. Hundreds of law enforcement officers have been shot to death protecting their communities. And too many children are killed or injured by firearms every year, often by accident. The vast majority of Americans—including the vast majority of gun owners—believe we must take sensible steps to address these horrible tragedies.Only the officers killed warrant a mention, but not the people killed by officers.
Agents of the state with a hair trigger are never among the people who we say "never should have been able to [have] a gun in the first place."
Anyway. Back to the "bad guys" with guns.
So we're going to tighten background checks, make sure people can't buy illegal weapons or purchase guns through anonymous trusts, and invest federal tax dollars into "smart gun technology."
And we're going to make domestic violence a disqualifying crime for gun ownership, which is a good idea in the abstract, except that it necessitates reporting, which victims of domestic abusers may not do if they know their abusers' guns will be taken away, thus enraging them and putting their victims at further risk for harm. The only way to reconcile that is to reduce access to guns altogether.
Which isn't on the table.
What is on the table: "Increase Mental Health Treatment and Reporting to the Background Check System."
We must continue to remove the stigma around mental illness and its treatment—and make sure that these individuals and their families know they are not alone. While individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, incidents of violence continue to highlight a crisis in America's mental health system. In addition to helping people get the treatment they need, we must make sure we keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited by law from having them.We have to reduce stigma around mental illness, but we definitely need to reflexively see every shooter as mentally ill and also track mentally ill people.
I have written a lot about how problematic the focus on "keeping the hands out of people with mental illness" is:
December 2012: "In Pursuit of Doing Something Meaningful."
December 2012: "An Observation About Mental Illness."
January 2013: "Today in Terrible Ideas."
November 2013: "The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons."
December 2013: "And What Is the Cost of Demonization?"
May 2014: "Welp."
December 2015: "Not Enough."
There's nothing I can say now that I haven't already said about the number of issues with focusing on mental illness as a means of preventing gun violence.
But I will note once again: The problem with restrictions designed to keep guns out of the "wrong" hands is that most of the people who decide to use a gun to harm someone else are, per these definitions, the "right" hands until they're not anymore.
The only meaningful thing that is going to curb gun violence is fewer guns.
But that isn't on the table.