by Colleen Flaherty
Last week, the Obama administration issued two executive actions as part of a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan. The two actions are aimed at keeping military-grade weapons out of the wrong hands and helping address two chilling statistics: In the United States, a child or teenager is hurt or killed by a gun every 30 minutes, and 22 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds have witnessed a shooting in their lifetime.
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While Congress has failed to pass common-sense legislation supported by most Americans — including expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime — the administration, spurred on by the mass shooting at a school in Newton, Conn., last December, has opted to address the issue with targeted executive actions that do not require congressional approval. The actions are designed to keep our children safe and reduce the incidence of gun violence in our communities.
“Today the Obama administration locked one backdoor used to get around Brady background checks. Most Americans would be outraged to learn the number of loopholes that allow felons and other dangerous people to get their hands on machine guns and other military-grade firearms,” said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The first order closes a frightening loophole. In order to obtain some of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns or short-barreled shotguns, current law requires a thorough background check and a special license.
However, a buyer can bypass this law by registering the weapon to a trust or corporation. This means felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill can own a dangerous firearm without a background check. In the last year alone, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these restricted firearms to trusts or corporations.
Under the executive order, these individuals will now be required to go through the background check process.
“While there is still much work to be done, we applaud the administration for supporting the will of 90 percent of Americans who demand strengthening Brady background checks,” said Gross.
The second order enacts a new policy to keep surplus military weapons off the streets. According to the White House press release:
When the United States provides military firearms to its allies, either as direct commercial sales or through the foreign military sales or military assistance programs, those firearms may not be imported back into the United States without U.S. government approval. Since 2005, the U.S. Government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 of these firearms.
The new policy will deny requests from private entities who want to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States, with few exceptions such as museums.
“Military-grade weapons have no place in our communities,” said Mayors Against Illegal Guns co-chairs Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino in a joint statement.
“Every day, 33 people are murdered with guns in our country, and it’s time for Congress to stop dragging its feet and pass common-sense reforms that keep criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from illegally buying guns.”