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White House announces 23 executive orders on gun violence

by AirTalk®

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U.S. President Barack Obama signs a series of executive orders about the administration's new gun law proposals as children who wrote letters to the White House about gun violence, (L-R) Hinna Zeejah, Taejah Goode, Julia Stokes and Grant Fritz, look on in the Eisenhower Executive Office building January 16, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In the month since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Vice President Biden has led a committee tasked with honing in on ways to curb gun violence. The 23 executive orders announced by President Obama this morning include more stringent background checks for those purchasing guns, a ban on high capacity magazines and assault weapons, and a commitment to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

While many of the President’s proposals will require Congressional action and legislative battles, some will likely have an immediate effect. A large part of the recent gun violence discourse has been a focus on mental illness. Gun control advocates aim to close gaping loopholes in the current background check system and to regulate types of guns and ammunition become publicly available.

Gun advocacy groups argue that the concentration should be on mental illness; there have been proposals that psychologists and psychiatrists should disclose information on patients who may pose a violent threat. President Obama’s announcement also included a directive to improve mental health services alongside other gun control legislation.

What is the role of mental health in the gun violence discussion? What is the most important focus point in this dialogue? What kind of weight will President Obama’s executive action carry in the grand scheme of things?


Erwin Chemerinsky,  Dean and professor of law at the UC Irvine School of Law.

Paul Neuharth,
 Attorney based in San Diego who works on gun ownership cases

Doyle McManus, Washington Columnist for the Los Angeles Times

The following are the 23 Executive Actions the President announced Wednesday:

  • Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

  • Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

  • Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

  • Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

  • Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

  • Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

  • Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

  • Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

  • Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

  • Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

  • Nominate an ATF director.

  • Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

  • Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

  • Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

  • Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

  • Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

  • Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

  • Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

  • Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

  • Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

  • Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

  • Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.


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