Story Summary

New Gun Laws

Many government officials are proposing new laws to reduce gun violence.

2012 was a very violent year for public shootings. The first big shooting was in an Aurora, Colorado theater during the premiere of the new Batman movie;  James Eagan Holmes is the prime suspect in the killing of 12 and injuries of 58.

The last was the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, where 20 young children and 6 adults, including teachers, were shot to death by Adam Lanza before he turned the gun on himself. He also killed his mother in her home. Two were injured at Sandy Hook.

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This story has 9 updates

Few Americans will ever forget the haunting and heartbreaking stories from the mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut.

A month after Newtown, many are blaming the high capacity weapons the shooters used in both incidents.

“I’m a firm believer in the Second Amendment and I think people should have the right to buy whatever firearms they want. But I think there needs to be some controls on the assault type weapons,” said Herbert Schoffner, who lives in York County.

Part of President Obama’s gun control plan released Wednesday called for banning tactical weapons. However, some police officers say it’s not the guns that are the real problem.

“We’re dealing with people that are stealing the firearm or getting it through illegal means. There’s mandatory minimums that are in place when people use a firearm in a crime, and it’s one of the first things that’s thrown out the window during plea bargaining,” said Chief Wes Kahley of the York City Police Department.

Kahley said of the 11 homicides in York City in 2012, none were commited with assault rifles.

“They’re out there, we run into them, of course they’re scary weapons. But to me what should be addressed is how illegal guns are being put on our streets,” Kahley said.

Another issue, Kahley said, is guns getting into the hands of people who are mentally ill.

“We have a lot of issues even as police departments when we deal with someone with mental health issues in trying to get information to best serve that person  to best protect society…because the individual’s rights are put before society’s rights,” he said.

While he chief said he’s not against the President’s plan, there are far more issues that need to be touched upon before banning certain guns.

“There’s so many cultural issues here taking place in society and so many other issues that need to be addressed,” he said.

Gun Control Debate Rekindles After Sandy Hook Elementary Tragedy

Local News
01/16/13

Guns selling out

In the wake of President Obama’s Speech on Wednesday people are scrambling to buy guns.  He is proposing a number of bans, including on assault-style rifles and high-caliber magazines.  Many local gun shops are out of these items. Others are holding on to what they have left.  

“We’ve been out of the black rifles, tactical rifles, shotguns and now we get very few and they are far between. Ammunition as well, we’ve had to limit the sales,” says Horseshoe Pike Gun Shop owner Jim Heverling. 

Retired State Trooper Mark Amato is a certified firearms training instructor with MSA Tactical, LLC. He says a ban on these items is not the answer. “Criminals don’t follow the rules. They will obtain things however they want to obtain things either by stealing or buying them illegally. Somebody with three or four, ten round magazines can put as many rounds down range almost as quickly as somebody with a 30 round magazine.”

Heverling agrees. “Safety is an issue. Parents being responsible for having guns secured in a way that youngsters can’t get to them. And people that would have some emotional issues cannot get to them. Maybe a parent needs to make that decision,” says Heverling.  “I don’t believe the magazine capacity would solve anything. I don’t believe that taking black rifles from people will solve the problems that we got.

NRA Statement:

Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership.  Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law.  We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation.  Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.

Harrisburg Mayor Linda D. Thompson joined President Obama in Washington today to call upon Congress to strengthen America’s gun laws to confront mass shootings and common gun violence by strengthening America’s gun laws following the broadest public pressure for gun control in decades.

At the White House event at noon, Mayor Thompson said, “this is a bold and comprehensive plan to end the sale of military-styled weaponry in America and end mass gun violence. The president is offering sensible solutions that Americans across the nation are demanding right now.”

The President announced plans to introduce legislation next week that includes a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, expanded background checks for gun purchases and new gun trafficking laws to crack down on the spread of weapons across the country.

“These are precisely the actions the Mayors Against Illegal Guns have called for since the tragedy in Newton, Conn. last month,” Thompson said. “We congratulate the President today.”

President Obama promised to act without Congressional approval to increase the enforcement of existing gun laws and improve the flow of information among federal agencies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have them.

The President’s proposals also require criminal background checks for all gun sales, closing the longstanding loophole that allows gun buyers to avoid such checks by purchasing their weapons at gun shows or from a private seller.

The background check database, in place since 1996, has stopped 1.5 million sales to felons, fugitives, convicted domestic abusers and others; but today almost 40 percent of all gun sales are exempt from the system.

Mayor Thompson said she will call on Pennsylvania representatives in Washington to “support a tougher ban on military style assault weapons, limit the number of rounds that can be in a magazine to 10, and require criminal background checks for all gun sales.”

“It’s up to lawmakers in Congress now to pass these measures that will help save lives. The American people won’t accept inaction any longer.” She added. “We have worked for six years to help make this day happened.”

The Mayor said that the President and Vice President will take their gun control message across the county in a series of public events. Highlights from the President’s plan include:

Legislative Proposals

  • Require a background check for all gun sales.
  • Ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
  • Strengthening penalties for gun trafficking.

Key Executive Orders

  • Improve reporting of records to the background check system by states and federal agencies.
  • Crack down on criminals who try to buy guns.
  • Send an open letter to gun dealers encouraging them to run background checks for private citizens selling their guns.
  • Call on Congress to act on the Administration’s $4 billion proposal to help keep 15,000 cops on the street.
  • Direct federal agencies to trace all guns recovered in crimes.
  • Nominate B. Todd Jones, current Acting Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, to be the agency’s permanent director.

 

The article above provided by the Office of the Mayor of Harrisburg.

[Updated at 12:40 p.m. ET] Reaction to Obama’s announcement is starting to come in. From Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, whose state was the site of the December 14 school massacre that prompted Obama to examine gun control steps:

“In the hours after the worst of our fears were confirmed, in the midst of the grief and sorrow over the loss of 20 innocent children and six dedicated educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was one question on the minds of people across Connecticut and around the nation: How do we make sure this never happens again? Today the president took the critical first step toward answering that question. The common sense measures he proposed today are something that we should all be able to agree on, and I want to commend him and the vice president for their work on this issue.”

[Updated at 12:22 p.m. ET] The announcement is over, and Obama is signing the 23 executive actions. These orders are in addition to laws that Obama wants Congress to pass. Here, according to the White House, are what the 23 executive actions will do, without congressional approval:

1. “Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.”

2. “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.”

3. “Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.”

4. “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.”

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

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

7. “Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.”

8. “Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).”

9. “Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.”

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

11. “Nominate an ATF director.”

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

13. “Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.”

14. “Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”

15. “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.”

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

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

18. “Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”

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

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

21. “Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.”

22. “Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.”

23. “Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.”

[Updated at 12:17 p.m. ET] Obama says he acknowledges that Americans have certain unalienable rights, but with those rights come responsibilities, and that Americans are “responsible for each other.” These rights – including those to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – were denied to victims of high profile shooting such as those at Virginia Tech last decade and the December 14 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Obama called for public pressure on Congress and the gun lobby to push for stronger steps against gun violence, saying “the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.”

“Let’s do the right thing … for (shooting victims) and for the country that we love so much. Thank you. I’m going to sign these orders,” he said.

[Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET] More details on what Obama said about the 23 executive orders he’s poised to sign: The orders, he said, include those that would strengthening background checks on gun sales and expand safety programs in schools.

He hasn’t said what all of the 23 orders would do.

[Updated at 12:09 p.m. ET] Obama says he will nominate B. Todd Jones, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as its permanent chief. The agency has lacked a permanent leader for six years.

[Updated at 12:07 p.m. ET] Obama says he will sign 23 executive orders relating to this issue today.

He also will ask Congress to pass laws, including ones that would:

– require universal background checks (background checks on anyone who would buy a gun, whether in stores or at auctions and conventions)

– restore a ban on “military-style assault weapons”

– ban gun magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds

– tougher penalties on people who sell guns to people who aren’t allowed to have guns

[Updated at 11:59 a.m. ET] President Obama has started to speak, and he’s thanking Biden for his work to recommend gun-control steps in the past couple of weeks.

Obama also is acknowledging four children who are sitting being and to the left of his podium. These children were asked to attend the announcement because they wrote letters to Obama after the December 14 shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut, school.

The nation should be motivated to keep children such as these from harm, he said. “Their voices should compel us to change,” and that’s why he asked Biden to come up with recommendations that the country should execute “right now” to curb gun violence, Obama said.

[Updated at 11:56 a.m. ET] “The world has changed and it is demanding action, it is in this context that the president” asked me to come up gun-control recommendations, Biden said.

Some of the recommendations that Biden’s task force gave to Obama on Monday include executive orders that the president can make without congressional approval, Biden said.

[Updated at 11:53 a.m. ET] Vice President Joe Biden has begun the event with an acknowledgement of the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, where 20 children and six women were killed. “It’s been 33 days since (the nation’s heart) has been broken” by the Newtown shooting, he said.

He’s also addressing the Newtown victims’ relatives who are attending the White House announcement.

[Initial post, 11:38 a.m. ET] The moment for President Barack Obama to announce his gun-control proposals is about to arrive.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to unveil – around 11:55 a.m. ET – gun control proposals that, according to a source, will include background checks on all gun sales, a ban on assault weapons, and a ban on gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

This post will have details on Obama’s proposals as they are announced. Check this page starting just before noon ET, and refresh often for updates.

The announcement at the White House comes after Biden led a task force to make gun-control proposals, partly in response to a December 14 shooting that killed 20 children and six women at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Linda-D.-Thompson

Harrisburg Mayor Linda D. Thompson is in Washington this morning to attend a press conference with President Barack Obama as he announces his endorsement of the Mayors Again Illegal Guns plan for reducing automatic weapons across the nation. Mayor Thompson, who is advocating for a ban of military type weapons, issued the following statement:

“President Obama’s bold and comprehensive plan to end gun violence in this country is comprised of sensible solutions that people on all sides of this debate can agree upon. It’s now up to lawmakers in Congress to pass these measures that will help save lives. The American people won’t accept inaction any longer.”

Pres. Obama wipes away tears as he talks about CT school shooting victimsWashington (CNN) — President Barack Obama will unveil Wednesday a package of gun control proposals that, according to a source, will include universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will announce the proposals, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.

They will be joined by a group of children who wrote letters to the president in the aftermath of the December 14 shooting rampage by a lone gunman who killed 20 students and six adults at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, Carney said.

Obama will propose legislative steps he previously has backed, such as a ban on assault weapons, restrictions on high-capacity ammunition magazines and strengthening federal background checks of people attempting to buy guns, according to Carney.

The president also will push for other steps that could include executive actions on his part that don’t require congressional approval, Carney noted.

More specifically, the source — an official familiar with the process — said the president’s proposal will press for a ban on high capacity magazines with more than 10 rounds, universal background checks and a request that funds be made available to help treat mental illness and provide schools with support to enhance their safety.

Biden led a panel assembled by Obama to examine gun control steps after the Newtown shootings, which sparked a fierce public debate over how to prevent such mass killings with guns.

Opponents led by the powerful National Rifle Association promise a political fight against gun control measures that they say will violate the constitutional right to bear arms.

An NRA spokesman said Tuesday the group has experienced what he called an “unprecedented” spike in membership numbers since new calls for gun control began in the past month.

Approximately 250,000 people have joined the organization’s existing 4.25 million members, according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.

“This is in direct response to the threats and accusations coming from” Obama and other political leaders, Arulanandam said, adding that “if anyone is wondering if the American people cared about the Second Amendment … those numbers give a very clear answer.”

In addition to new members, the NRA is also receiving an influx of financial contributions, he said.

“This is going to be a very expensive and hard-fought fight,” Arulanandam noted.

The federal government estimates that more than 300 million non-military guns are owned or available for purchase in the United States.

At the White House, Carney acknowledged the challenge, saying: “If these things were easy, they would have been achieved already.”

“It’s something we have to do together,” he said. “It’s something that cannot be done by a president alone. It can’t be done by a single community alone or a mayor or a governor or by Congress alone. We all have to work together.”

Carney also reiterated Obama’s belief in the Second Amendment right of citizens to be armed.

“He has made clear that he believes we ought to take common sense, and enact common sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights but prevent people who should not have weapons from obtaining them,” he said.

Carney said the proposals Obama will present Wednesday would be his final version of the package recommended by Biden’s team.

The recommendations by Biden’s panel included as many as 19 executive actions, such as tougher enforcement of existing laws, legislators briefed by the vice president said Tuesday.

Obama could demand that agencies provide data for background checks that are supposed to accompany gun sales, ensuring that information included in the checks is as “comprehensive and complete as possible,” Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson of California told CNN.

The president also could immediately appoint a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been without a permanent chief for six years, Thompson said.

A Democratic member of Congress who was briefed on the recommendations said some of the 19 executive actions discussed included improving the way the government administers current law.

The legislator, speaking on condition of not being identified, cited loopholes in the federal database for background checks on gun sales as well as issues involving mental health checks as possibilities for executive action.

Across the country, more than a million people failed background checks to buy guns during the past 14 years because of criminal records, drug use or mental health issues, according to FBI figures. That figure, however, is a small fraction of overall gun sales.

None of the legislators mentioned the NRA’s call for armed guards at school as an option under consideration.

Obama has not ruled out issuing executive orders on some gun control measures to enforce laws already on the books, such as bolstering the way gun sales are tracked.

The president reiterated his desire on Monday for more robust background checks for gun buyers, keeping high capacity magazines away from criminals, and a ban on assault weapons.

“Will all of them get through this Congress? I don’t know,” Obama said. “But what’s uppermost in my mind is making sure that I’m honest with the American people and members of Congress about what I think will work, what I think is something that will make a difference.”

Working with Congress will be paramount in curbing gun violence, Thompson said, singling out a ban on high capacity magazines as an example of a measure that could garner Republican support. A full-scale assault weapon ban would be tougher to pass the GOP-controlled House, he argued.

Obama also said on Monday that the gun lobby was “ginning up” fears the federal government will use the Connecticut tragedy to seize Americans’ guns. At least part of the frenzy is little more than marketing, he implied.

“It’s certainly good for business,” the president said, responding to a question about a spike in weapons sales and applications for background checks since the December killings.

Biden has said he’s found widespread support for universal background checks and restrictions on the sale of high capacity magazines, which gun control advocates believe contribute to more bloodshed at mass shootings.

The influential NRA, among other gun rights groups, has vowed to fight any new gun restrictions — like an assault weapon ban.

Gun control advocates, gun violence victims, the NRA, video game makers and others have met with the Biden-led task force.

In New York, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed into law a series of new gun regulations — the nation’s first since the Newtown shootings.

Both New York’s GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly approved the measure by overwhelming margins.

It includes a statewide gun registry and adds a uniform licensing standard across the state, altering the current system, in which each county or municipality sets a standard.

Residents are also restricted to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10.

“The changes in New York are largely cosmetic,” said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who described existing regulations as “the toughest gun laws in the United States.”

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are reviewing some form of new gun regulations in the new year.

Meanwhile, new national polls indicated a majority of Americans support some or most gun control measures.

By a 51%-45% margin, Americans questioned in a new Pew Research Center poll said it was more important to control gun ownership than to protect gun rights.

And by a 52%-35% margin, a new ABC News/Washington Post survey indicates the public says it is more likely to support some forms of gun control after last month’s massacre. However, the polls showed continuing divisions on political and gender lines.

CNN’s Carol Cratty, Jim Acosta, Paul Steinhauser, David Ariosto and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

By David Ariosto, NEW YORK (CNN) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed into law a new package of gun regulations intended to fortify New York’s existing assault weapons ban, limit the number of bullets in magazines and strengthen rules that keep the mentally ill from owning firearms.

The regulations are the nation’s first since last month’s massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 27 people, including 20 young children at an elementary school.

Cuomo, a self-described gun owner, said the tragedy had spurred lawmakers to action and called the legislation a “common sense” measure.

“You can overpower the extremists with intelligence and common sense,” he said.

Both New York’s GOP-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled Assembly approved it by overwhelming margins, roughly a week after Cuomo spelled out tough new gun control proposals in his annual State of the State address.

Cuomo, a first-term Democratic governor, had called for a tightening of the state’s assault weapons ban, background checks for people who purchase guns in private transactions and more restrictions on high-capacity magazines.

The deal includes a statewide gun registry and adds a uniform licensing standard across the state, altering the current system, in which each county or municipality sets a standard.

Residents are also restricted to purchasing ammunition magazines that carry seven bullets, rather than 10.

It remains unclear what effect the measure will have on the state’s already stringent approach to gun control.

“The changes in New York are largely cosmetic,” said CNN legal analyst Paul Callan, who described existing regulations as “the toughest gun laws in the United States.”

“The one change that arguably will have the greatest impact is the amendment to Kendra’s Law, which will permit closer monitoring of the mentally ill,” he said.

That 1999 law grants New York judges the authority to require residents to undergo psychiatric treatment if they meet certain criteria.

The new measures extend Kendra’s Law through 2017, expand outpatient treatment from six months to a year and require reviews before such treatment is allowed to expire.

New York’s mental health professionals will also be governed by a new set of rules that require them to report their patients to the state should those patients exhibit behavior suggesting they could be harmful to themselves or others.

“We’re opening up an unprecedented window into what goes on in the therapy room,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“It would effect a major change in the usual presumptions of confidentiality.”

The bill also creates mandatory life sentences for anyone who murders certain first responders, a provision that comes after two firefighters were killed in an ambush as they battled a blaze in upstate New York.

The vote coincides with a series of recommendations put together by Vice President Joe Biden meant to address the nation’s gun violence.

Lawmakers in at least 10 other states are reviewing some form of new gun regulations in the new year.

CNN’s Dana Ford, Mary Snow and Yon Pomrenze contributed to this report

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Barack Obama will announce “concrete” proposals to prevent gun violence at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

He will be joined by Vice President Joe Biden who led the administration’s efforts to determine policy steps to take. Obama said Monday he was reviewing Biden’s proposals.

President Barack Obama said at a news conference on Monday, “I expect to have a fuller presentation later in the week to give people some specifics about what I think we need to do.”

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, a freshman Connecticut Democrat who was vice chairwoman of Vice President Joe Biden’s gun panel, acknowledged the forthcoming announcement earlier Tuesday. Her district includes Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children at an elementary school were among the 27 killed December 14 by a gunman who also shot and killed himself.

“We are focused on a comprehensive approach that will deal with true gun safety regulations and protect the rights of responsible gun owners but also deal with mental health issues but most importantly keeping our children and our communities safe,” Esty told reporters Tuesday.

Biden held a meeting with that panel on Monday, the White House said.

– CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin contributed to this report

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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