The policy proposals that President Obama announced on Wednesday (organized by category here) outlined a wide-ranging agenda, including twenty-three items that could be implemented through executive action and twelve recommendations for action from Congress.* The items are a mixed bag, ranging from immediately actionable ideas to proposals that may never make it through Congress. Some are vague (launching a national dialogue about mental illness) while others are very specific (confirming a director for the ATF). In the coming weeks, PAGV will explore, seek input on, and respond in detail to the specific items. Here we outline a few of our immediate reactions as parents and concerned citizens.
- This is an important first step. It is gratifying to see the President both take direct action on a number of important gun-related matters, and publicly initiate the conversation about what needs to change to address the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in the United States.
- We strongly agree with the need for a comprehensive legislative and executive agenda, one that attempts to solve gun violence by addressing gun access, gun safety, school safety, societal factors, and mental illness. Reducing the threat of violence to our children will clearly require such a broad-based, comprehensive effort. Any flaws in individual proposals do not invalidate the entire effort.
- There will be something for everyone to like, and for everyone to hate, in the proposals. Given the current political climate, this may be inevitable. Due to the absence of thorough research into the causes and effects of gun violence, there is little agreement about its remedies, beyond a desire to see it end. To some, allocating $10,000,000 to research the connection between video games and violence seems like the worst kind of pandering to the NRA’s “it’s-everything-but-the-guns” narrative. To others, requiring background checks on all gun sales seems like the first step in a government takeover.
- Some of the proposals concur in fundamental ways with recent policy proposals from Parents Against Gun Violence. One of the executive orders, for example, directed the Centers for Disease Control to initiate research into the health effects of gun access (PAGV Policy Plank #2, Empower Researchers), while a proposal to Congress urges legislators to allocate $30,000,000 for schools to develop emergency-response plans (Policy Plank #5, Protect Schools).
- While President Obama implemented a number of executive actions, the biggest proposed changes will all require legislative action. All of the major funding allocations (with the exception of $20 million to encourage states to share background data) also have to go through Congress. In the coming weeks, concerned parents and citizens need to make sure that our voices and perspectives are heard in the legislative debates.
* Note that Obama actually signed only three executive orders (technically “presidential memorandums“) on Wednesday. The 23 “executive actions” named in the Obama proposal describe general policy priorities that would not require Congressional approval for implementation. However, many of the proposed “executive actions” come far from implemented (or implementable) public policy at this point.