What You Need to Know About Obama's Gun Control Plan | Sojourners

What You Need to Know About Obama's Gun Control Plan

The White House released the details of President Obama's latest executive action on Jan. 4, and the eagerly expected announcement will be suffixed by a live town hall meeting on gun control at 8 p.m. Thursday at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. While some are lamenting that the actions don't go far enough, the measures will tighten up existing laws.

The plan is divded into four topics: background checks, community safety, mental health, and gun safety technology. Here's what you need to know about each.

Background checks:

"[I]t doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks."

With this stipulation, Obama is effectively closing loopholes that might allow someone to buy a gun without any background check. What is notably lacking in this decree is a requirement that every gun purchase must be preceded by a criminal background check.

The gun control plan will also seek to make the background check system more effecient and effective by hiring 230 additional staff to help conduct background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Community safety:

"The President’s FY2017 budget will include funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce our gun laws."

Enforcement is ramping up — slowly. In addition to hiring 200 new agents, ATF will establish a center tracking illegal online firearms trafficking and ensure all firearms lost or stolen in transit are reported.

Prior to this executive action, it was ambiguous whether receiving or sending dealers reported guns lost or stolen in transit, resulting in thousands of missing guns.

Finally, Attorney General Loretta Lynch is encouraing every U.S. Attorney's Office to renew their domestic violence outreach efforts. Although these words sound encouraging, it's unclear how this announcement will actually move resources to support those affected by domestic violence.

Mental health:

"The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care."

Even though it can be dangerous to associate poor mental health and gun violence, this is some much-needed cash for mental health care in the United States.

Gun Safety Technology:

"The President has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology."

This measure aims to turn back the tide of accidental firearm deaths in the United States, especially child deaths. American children are nine times more likely to die in gun accidents than those in the rest of the developed world.

While this executive action might feel tepid, it's only because it remains within the bounds of the executive branch's authority. Further action will require real movement in Congress, which, unfortunately, could take many years.