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Rob Horowitz: Obama Proposes Common Sense Gun Policies

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


President Obama last week unveiled a comprehensive package of executive orders and proposed legislative initiatives designed to reduce the gun violence that plagues our nation and to limit the number of future Newtown-like tragedies. The President’s proposals include providing universal background checks by closing the gun show loophole which now results in 40% of guns being purchased without a background check, bolstering the existing background check system by ensuring that all the people that should be denied the ability to purchase a gun are on the list, reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban, limiting the capacity of magazines to 10 bullets, and providing greater protection at schools by offering incentives to hire School Resource Officers, among other provisions.

Taken together, this well-crafted plan provides the possibility of making a real dent in the problem. But for enough of the pieces to be put in place, it must first be enacted and, despite the momentum for action created by Newtown, that remains a tough political fight. As the President said in his radio address this past weekend, “I will do everything in my power to make them (the adoption of the proposals) a reality. Because while we may not be able to prevent every senseless act of violence in this country, if there is even one thing we can do to reduce it—if even one life can be saved—we’ve got an obligation to try.”

It is true that the some of the improvements offered by the President, such as building a more complete list of people who should be denied the ability to purchase a gun and providing incentives to hire School Resource officers, are proceeding right away since they are being done under his Executive Authority. The more important components, however, including providing universal background checks and reinstating the assault weapons ban, do require Congressional approval.

Recognizing this fact, the White House appears ready to launch a full-scale public education and legislative campaign for its gun package. For example, The President’s “Obama for America” organization has now been turned into a group called “Organizing for Action”, in order to provide a structure better suited to raising the money that will be needed to promote the gun package and other second term priorities. President Obama will be joined in this effort by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and other pro-gun control groups.

The key to success will be building a broad coalition that goes beyond traditional gun control advocates to include police officers and other law enforcement officials as well as hunters. In a nation were about four in 10 households contain guns, it will be critical to continually reinforce that these common sense proposals are aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerous few—the criminals, the seriously mentally-ill and the terrorists—and will in no way jeopardize the right to hunt or protect one’s family for the overwhelming majority of citizens who are law abiding.

Supporters of the President’s package can draw encouragement from some favorable signs. The National Rifle Association (NRA) recently indicated that they may not oppose the universal background check provisions—a significant departure from their previous stance on the issue. About 90% of the public and more than 70% of NRA members support universal background checks. And the overall shifts in public opinion towards more support for gun control measures has been greater in the wake of Newtown than in past massacres and so far appears to be holding. Still, building on these positive developments and gaining passage of these common sense proposals will take the exercise of political capital and persistence. The good news is that President Obama seems to be prepared and dedicated to the big task ahead

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island



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