UPDATED: 16 Media Myths About Proposals To Strengthen Gun Laws
Opponents of stronger gun laws have used their media platforms to continue to promote myths and falsehoods about firearm policy, often parroting gun lobby talking points, in the weeks leading up to today's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence.
NEW: How do federal background checks work?
NEW: Have assault weapons been banned for decades?
NEW: Does the assault weapons ban cover most handguns?
NEW: Do most mass shootings occur in gun-free zones?
NEW: Is the Obama administration forcing doctors to ask patients about gun ownership?
NEW: Is the Obama administration going to use doctors to create a registry of gun owners?
NEW: Would proposals to strengthen background checks force family members to run checks on each other?
Is any attempt to regulate firearms a violation of the Second Amendment?
Is it true that weaker gun laws lead to lower crime rates?
Does the public support gun violence prevention measures?
Does the NRA have the ability to remove from office politicians who support stronger gun laws?
Have any proposals been put forward which would result in federal gun confiscation?
UPDATED: Are guns that are commonly called assault weapons more dangerous than other firearms?
Are sellers at gun shows required to perform a background check on buyers?
Would closing the private sales loophole prevent private citizens from selling firearms?
Has the Obama administration proposed using an executive order to outlaw certain firearms?
MYTH: The Federal Government Doesn't Currently Perform Background Checks On Gun Purchasers
Mamet In Newsweek On Background Checks: “How Are They Checked? Are They Checked? By What Agency, With What Monies?” In his Newsweek cover story, playwright David Mamet was seemingly ignorant of the fact that federal law requires individuals who purchase firearms from licensed dealers to undergo a criminal background check:
Yes, but we should check all applicants for firearms for a criminal record?
Anyone applying to purchase a handgun has, since 1968, filled out a form certifying he is not a fugitive from justice, a convicted criminal, or mentally deficient. These forms, tens and tens of millions of them, rest, conceivably, somewhere in the vast repository. How are they checked? Are they checked? By what agency, with what monies? The country is broke. Do we actually want another agency staffed by bureaucrats for whom there is no funding? [Newsweek, 1/28/13]
FACT: While There Is No Federal Background Check Requirement For Private Transactions, Sales Through A Licensed Dealer Are Checked
FBI Has Run Instant Background Checks On Purchases From Licensed Dealers For More Than A Decade. From the FBI website:
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is all about saving lives and protecting people from harm -- by not letting guns and explosives fall into the wrong hands. It also ensures the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers.
Mandated by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and launched by the FBI on November 30, 1998, NICS is used by Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to buy firearms or explosives. Before ringing up the sale, cashiers call in a check to the FBI or to other designated agencies to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn't otherwise ineligible to make a purchase. More than 100 million such checks have been made in the last decade, leading to more than 700,000 denials. [FBI, accessed 1/29/13]
MYTH: The Public Is Already Generally Prohibited From Owning Assault Weapons
Mamet: Assault Weapons “Have Been Illegal In Private Hands ... Since 1934.” In his Newsweek piece, Mamet claimed that only automatic weapons regulated by the National Firearms Act of 1934 are assault weapons and therefore "[t]he so-called assault weapons ban is a hoax ... The guns it supposedly banned have been illegal (as above) for 78 years":
An assault weapon is that which used to be called a “submachine gun.” That is, a handheld long gun that will fire continuously as long as the trigger is held down.
These have been illegal in private hands (barring those collectors who have passed the stringent scrutiny of the Federal Government) since 1934. Outside these few legal possessors, there are none in private hands. They may be found in the hands of criminals. But criminals, let us reflect, by definition, are those who will not abide by the laws. What purpose will passing more laws serve?
The so-called assault weapons ban is a hoax. It is a political appeal to the ignorant. The guns it supposedly banned have been illegal (as above) for 78 years. Did the ban make them “more” illegal? The ban addresses only the appearance of weapons, not their operation. [Newsweek, 1/28/13]
FACT: The Recently Proposed Assault Weapons Ban Seeks To Outlaw Presently Legal Weapons
New Senate Bill Seeks To Ban 157 Specific Weapons That Are Currently Legal. A press release on Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) introduction of a new assault weapons ban states:
[T]he bill prohibits the sale, manufacture, transfer and importation of 157 of the most commonly-owned military-style assault weapons. It also bans an additional group of assault weapons that can accept a detachable ammunition magazine and have one or more military characteristics. [Feinstein.senate.gov, accessed 1/29/13]
Violence Policy Center: Gun Industry Launched Campaign To Attempt To Rebrand Assault Weapons As “Modern Sporting Rifles.” A June 2011 report on the militarization of firearms by gun manufacturers described how opponents of assault weapons bans have attempted to obfuscate the issue with semantic arguments, launching a media campaign to paint semi-automatic assault weapons as sporting rifles:
In November 2009, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) announced that--“due to gun owners' concerns over President-elect Obama and possible legislation regulating the Second Amendment rights of Americans”--it had placed on its website a “media resource...to help clear up much of the confusion and misinformation about so-called 'assault weapons.'”
This was the opening salvo in the industry's meretricious campaign to “rebrand” semiautomatic assault weapons as “modern sporting rifles.” The point of the campaign--inspired by the pummeling the industry gets for selling killing machines--is apparently that semiautomatic assault rifles are really just another sporting gun, no different from an older generation of bolt-action and low-capacity rifles. [Violence Policy Center, June 2011]
MYTH: The Assault Weapons Ban Would Outlaw Most Handguns
Townhall News Editor Katie Pavlich: Proposed Ban Would Cover “Nearly Every Semi-Automatic Handgun In The United States.” In a December 28 article, Pavlich suggested that because the assault weapons ban was slated to cover semi-automatic handguns with “one or more military characteristics” that it would apply to “nearly every semi-automatic handgun in the United States.” [Townhall, 12/28/12]
FACT: The Ban Only Covers Military-Style Assault Pistols
Assault Weapons Ban Legislation: Banned Pistols Are Handgun Variations Of Assault Rifles. [Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator for California, accessed 1/29/13]
Violence Policy Center: Assault Pistols “Have The Penetrating Power Of An Assault Rifle In The Concealable Format Of A Pistol.” A January 2013 VPC report described how assault pistols use ammunition that more easily penetrates police body armor:
This increase in the quantity of makes and models has been matched by an increase in the quality of their lethality. Whereas the earlier generation of assault pistols were primarily high-capacity military-style pistols in 9mm or 45 caliber, the most popular models today are derived from military style assault rifles, such as the AK-47 and AR-15. As a result, they have the penetrating power of an assault rifle in the concealable format of a pistol. Whereas the most commonly worn levels of police body armor would be able to protect the wearer from a 9mm or 45 caliber handgun round, a .223 or 7.62 rifle round would be far more likely to penetrate. [Violence Policy Center, January 2013]
Violence Policy Center: Assault Pistol Manufacturers Sell Assault Pistols In Conjunction With High-Capacity Magazines:
[Violence Policy Center, January 2013]
MYTH: Mass Shootings Are More Likely To Occur In Gun-Free Zones
Ann Coulter On Fox News: “All [Mass Shooters] But One Since 1950 Have Shot Up Gun-Free Zones.” From the January 14 edition of Hannity:
COULTER: Okay, like all liberal solutions, this has nothing to do with the problem we're supposed to be addressing. If you are going into a gun-free zone, as all of the mass shooters do, all but one since 1950 have shot up gun-free zones, you have time to drop the magazine and insert another one. [Hannity, 1/14/13]
FACT: Most Mass Shootings Between 2009 And 2013 Occurred In Places Where Guns Were Allowed
Mayors Against Illegal Guns: No More Than One-Third Of Mass Shootings Between January 2009 And January 2013 Occurred In Gun-Free Zones. From a January 2013 report:
Nineteen of the 43 incidents (44%) took place in private residences. Of the 23 incidents in public spaces, at least 9 took place where concealed guns could be lawfully carried. All told, no more than 14 of the shootings (33%) took place in public spaces that were so-called “gun-free zones.” [Mayors Against Illegal Guns, January 2013]
Mother Jones: “Not One Of 62 Mass Shootings In The United States Over The Last 30 Years Has Been Stopped” By A Civilian Carrying A Gun. From a December 19 article by Mark Follman:
As I reported recently in our in-depth investigation, not one of 62 mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years has been stopped this way. More broadly, attempts by armed civilians to intervene in shooting rampages are rare--and are successful even more rarely. (Two people who tried it in recent years were gravely wounded or killed.) [Mother Jones, 12/19/12]
MYTH: Under Obama Executive Action, Doctors Are Required To Ask Patients About Guns In The Home
Rush Limbaugh: “Now Doctors Are Being Ordered, Instructed To Talk To Patients And Get Information From Them About Gun Ownership.” During the January 16 edition of his show, Limbaugh claimed that a clarification about the Affordable Care Act of 2010 issued by President Obama as part of his executive actions on gun violence meant that doctors “had better comply” with an order to find out where guns and ammunition are kept in patient's homes:
LIMBAUGH: So now doctors are being ordered, instructed to talk to patients and get information from them about gun ownership, where they are in their house, who has access to them, where the ammunition is kept. Doctors are now, quote, unquote, “permitted,” unquote, to do this. It makes 'em deputies, agents of the state. And if they don't do it -- let's look at this the other way around. Let's say patient X goes to a doctor. The patient's got a sore throat, runny nose. The doctor does not ask the patient anything to do with the patient's guns. The patient then goes out and uses the guns sometime later and then the regime learns that the doctor didn't report that this patient indicated that he might be dangerous.
Look at the position this puts the doctors in. The doctors are now under the thumb of Obamacare. They had better comply. This is not a choice. Can you say hello to rapidly increasing, even higher and faster, malpractice insurance? They'd better comply. They'd better do as they're told. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/16/13]
FACT: Obama Only Clarified That Doctors Can Ask About Firearm Ownership At Their Own Discretion
Obama Administration: “The Affordable Care Act Does Not Prohibit Or Otherwise Regulate Communication Between Doctors And Patients, Including About Firearms.” A report issued by the White House outlining Obama's executive actions on gun violence clarified that doctors are permitted to ask their patients about gun safety but establishes no mandate requiring doctors to do so:
Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients' homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home. Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms. [The White House, accessed 1/29/13]
MYTH: The Obama Administration Will Use Information From Doctors To Make A National Gun Owner Database
Limbaugh: Obama's Goal Is To Ensure “What We Do Or Say” Is Reported To The Authorities. From the January 16 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Again, folks, this is pushing people's buttons on purpose. This is gonna cause some people to snap. It might. This is going after the very reasonableness and sanity of people. It seems like the goal here is to get everybody on some kind of list and to have all kinds of people that we interact with end up reporting on what we do or say to hear to the government, to the, quote, unquote, the authorities. The authorities. That's a totalitarian word, “the authorities.”
Why is Obama doing this? Why is he deliberately making people so upset? What's driving him? Don't ask me where the ACLU is. I mean, anything to get rid of guns, the ACLU's right there. Leftists are leftists, and that comes first with them. The ACLU as a civil rights organization is a bit of a laugher. They're just another branch of liberalism. [The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/16/13]
Radio Host Mark Levin: Obama's Executive Actions Call For “National Database” Of “All Innocent Law-Abiding Citizens Who Purchase Guns.” During a January 16 appearance on Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News, Levin also urged Americans to “rise up” over his claim that the executive actions will “have doctors reporting their clients to the federal government”:
LEVIN: I think there are a couple things in here that are poison pills, though. The attempt to nationalize the medical profession and have doctors reporting their clients to the federal government. This is 1930s stuff. The American people need to rise up against that. The medical profession needs to say no. Also he clearly wants a national database where all innocent law-abiding citizens who purchase guns are in a national database. [Your World with Neil Cavuto, 1/16/13]
FACT: The Obama Administration Has Not Proposed This Type Of Data Collection
White House Summary Of Administration's Gun Violence Prevention Measures Makes No Mention Of Requiring Doctors To Collect Information About Gun Owners For The Federal Government. [The White House, accessed 1/29/13]
Kaiser Health News: The Department Of Health And Human Services Is Prohibited Under The Affordable Care Act From Collecting Data About Gun Owners. From a November 26, 2012 article:
The 2010 federal health law doesn't prevent doctors from asking about guns, but it does prohibit insurers, employers and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services from asking about gun ownership in many instances, and it prohibits HHS from collecting such data.
Employer-sponsored wellness programs, for example, are prohibited from asking people about gun use or storage. Such questions might be posed as part of a questionnaire that asks about risky health behavior such as smoking and inadequate exercise. Likewise, health insurers can't use gun ownership, use or storage as criteria for setting premiums or denying coverage. [Kaiser Health News, 11/26/12]
MYTH: Proposals To Expand Background Checks Would Place Onerous Burdens On The Transfer Of Firearms Between Family Members
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre: Obama “Wants To Put Every Private, Personal Transaction Under The Thumb Of The Federal Government.” Major media outlets gave LaPierre's remarks during a January 22 speech significant coverage without putting his claims in the context of actual proposals to expand background checks. From LaPierre's prepared remarks:
Obama wants you to believe that putting the federal government in the middle of every firearm transaction -except those between criminals - will somehow make us safer.
That means forcing law-abiding people to fork over excessive fees to exercise their rights. Forcing parents to fill out forms to leave a family heirloom to a loved one - standing in line and filling out a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork, just so a grandfather can give a grandson a Christmas gift. He wants to put every private, personal transaction under the thumb of the federal government, and he wants to keep all those names in a massive federal registry. [National Rifle Association, accessed 1/29/13]
NRA Past President Marion Hammer: Expanded Background Checks Would Mean “Having To Do A Background Check On Your Own Mom Before You Could Give Her One Of Your Guns For Protection.” In a January 23 op-ed published at gun news website AmmoLand, Hammer claimed that expanding background checks would interfere with transfers of firearms between family members and hunting partners:
Imagine a grandfather who wants to give a family shotgun to his 12-year-old grandson having to do a background check on his grandson before giving him the shotgun.
Or a friend having to do a background check on his lifetime best buddy before lending him a hunting rifle.
Or, if your mother had a prowler at her home, having to do a background check on your own Mom before you could give her one of your guns for protection.
That's what “universal background checks” do. They turn traditional innocent conduct into a criminal offense. They target you, law-abiding gun owners. [AmmoLand.com, 1/23/13]
FACT: Legislative Proposals To Strengthen Background Checks Have Exemptions For Family Members And Temporary Transfers
Obama Administration Proposal Includes Exemptions For Family Members, Temporary Transfers. The White House fact sheet on Obama's proposals to strengthen gun laws states:
Congress should pass legislation that goes beyond just closing the “gun show loophole” to require background checks for all firearm sales, with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes. [The White House, accessed 1/29/13]
The Fix Gun Checks Act Of 2013 (HR 137) Contains Exemptions For Family Gifts And Other Circumstances. The proposed legislation would also exempt temporary transfers of weapons for hunters and transfers of weapons to individuals in imminent danger:
''(f) EXCEPTIONS.--Unless prohibited by any other provision of law, subsections (b) and (c) shall not apply to any transfer of a firearm between an unlicensed transferor and unlicensed transferee, if--
(1) the transfer is a bona fide gift between immediate family members, including spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren;
(2) the transfer occurs by operation of law, or because of the death of another person for whom the unlicensed transferor is an executor or administrator of an estate or a trustee of a trust created in a will;
(3) the transfer is temporary and occurs while in the home of the unlicensed transferee, if--
(A) the unlicensed transferee is not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms; and
(B) the unlicensed transferee believes that possession of the firearm is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to the unlicensed transferee;
(6) the transfer is a temporary transfer of possession without transfer of title that takes place--
''(A) at a shooting range located in or on premises owned or occupied by a duly incorporated organization organized for conservation purposes or to foster proficiency in firearms;
(B) at a target firearm shooting competition under the auspices of or approved by a State agency or nonprofit organization; or
(C) while hunting, fishing, or trapping, if--
''(i) the activity is legal in all places where the unlicensed transferee possesses the firearm; and
(ii) the unlicensed transferee holds any required license or permit. [H.R. 137, accessed 1/29/13]
MYTH: All Gun Violence Prevention Proposals Are Infringements On The Second Amendment
Fox News Host Megyn Kelly: The Second Amendment "Was Meant To Prevent Exactly This Kind Of Thing Where Lawmakers Are Trying To Mess With Somebody's Firearm Ownership." On the January 10 edition of Fox News' America Live, Kelly said that “The Second Amendment was meant to stop the government from interfering with an individual's right to bear arms. It was meant to prevent exactly this kind of thing, where lawmakers are trying to mess with somebody's firearm ownership, but the people on the other side say that the founders never could have envisioned a country in which we have 300 million guns and high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic weapons.” [America Live, 1/10/13]
Kelly: New Gun Laws Won't Gain Support Since Most Americans Want “A Robust Interpretation Of The Second Amendment.” During the January 9 edition of America Live on Fox News, Kelly suggested proposals to reduce gun violence “crack down on gun rights” and are irreconcilable with the view that “the majority of this country wants a robust interpretation of the Second Amendment.”
KELLY: How could they get broad national support on any legislation that cracks down on gun rights? I mean the majority of this country wants a robust interpretation of the Second Amendment. And you know those polls moved around a little bit in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, but this is a gun loving country. And there's just a real question about whether in today's day and age they could push through any significant curtailment of gun rights. [America Live, 1/9/13]
FACT: The Supreme Court Says Guns Can Be Regulated In A Manner Consistent With The Second Amendment
Highest Court Reaffirmed That Regulation Of Firearms Is Permissible Under The Second Amendment In Landmark 2008 Case. In the 2008 Supreme Court case, District Of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority that the Second Amendment is “not unlimited” as “commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia continued:
[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. [United States v.] Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” [District of Columbia v. Heller, 6/26/08, via Google Scholar]
MYTH: Gun Violence Prevention Proposals Are Ineffective Because More Guns Equal Less Crime
Ann Coulter Pushes “Gun Researcher” John Lott's “More Guns, Less Crime” Thesis On Hannity. From the January 3 edition of Hannity on Fox News:
ANN COULTER: You want to cut down on public shootings? I mean there's been one thorough examination of public multiple victim shootings in this country in all 50 states from 1977 to 1999, it was updated in 1999 by William Landis at University of Chicago, John Lott, then at Yale University, they looked at death penalty, they looked at extra penalties for committing a crime with a gun. The one public policy that had an effect that reduced the incidence of these shootings and the number of causalities was concealed carry permits. That was the one policy. If you care about children dying, if you care about innocent victims, you should be in favor of concealed carry. [Hannity, 1/3/13]
In The Wake Of The Mass Shooting In Newtown, Connecticut, John Lott Appeared On Television To Argue Against Further Firearms Restrictions. [Media Matters, 12/17/12]
Fact: “More Guns, Less Crime” Author Has Been Discredited
Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy And Research: Lott's Thesis Has “Serious Flaws,” Expanding Concealed Carry Laws Likely Increases Aggravated Assaults. An October 25 report from the Center noted that a panel of experts from the National Council of Research and other experts found Lott's “More Guns, Less Crime” thesis to have “serious flaws”:
A large body of research has been conducted to investigate the effect of RTC [Right To Carry] laws on violence. Most notably, research led by John Lott, Jr. suggests that RTC laws have led to significant reductions in violent crime. But the research showing crime-reducing effects of RTC laws, including Lott's, has been carefully reviewed by a National Council of Research panel of experts, and others, and has been found to have serious flaws. The most consistent finding across studies which correct for these flaws is that RTC laws are associated with an increase in aggravated assaults. Using various statistical methods, estimates range from a one to nine percent increase in aggravated assaults as a result of RTC laws. [Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, October 2012]
Coding Errors In Lott's Research Leaves His “More Guns, Less Crime” Thesis “Without Credible Statistical Support.” In a Stanford Law Review article titled “The Latest Misfires in Support of the 'More Guns, Less Crime' Hypothesis,” Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue III studied how coding errors in data undermine Lott's “More Guns, Less Crime” claims. The authors explain:
PW [Lott's co-authors Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley] seriously miscoded their new county dataset in ways that irretrievably undermine every original regression result that they present in their response. As a result, the new PW regressions must simply be disregarded. Correcting PW's empirical mistakes once again shows that the “more guns, less crime” hypothesis is without credible statistical support. [Stanford Law Review, accessed 1/9/13 via Deltoid]
For more on why Lott has been discredited - including his history of modifying his research when his claims are called into dispute - click here.
FACT: Greater Firearm Availability Is Actually Linked To Higher Rates Of Homicide And Suicide
Economist Mark Duggan: Rate Of Gun Ownership “Significantly Positively” Correlated With Incidence Of Homicide. A study by economist Mark Duggan found that “changes in homicide and gun ownership are significantly positively related,” as he reported in “More Guns, More Crime” in the Journal of Political Economy in 2001. Duggan wrote:
My findings reveal that changes in homicide and gun ownership are significantly positively related. This relationship is almost entirely driven by the relationship between lagged changes in gun ownership and current changes in homicide, suggesting that the relationship is not driven simply by individuals' purchase of guns in response to increases in criminal activity.
These findings contradict the results from recent work suggesting that legislation allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons (CCW) caused a significant decline in violent crime (Lott and Mustard 1997). [Journal of Political Economy, 2001]
Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director David Hemenway: Guns Used “Far More” To Threaten Or Intimidate Than Protect. From a study published in Injury Prevention, “an international peer-reviewed journal for health professionals”:
Even after excluding many reported firearm victimizations, far more survey respondents report having been threatened or intimidated with a gun than having used a gun to protect themselves. A majority of the reported self defense gun uses were rated as probably illegal by a majority of judges. This was so even under the assumption that the respondent had a permit to own and carry the gun, and that the respondent had described the event honestly. [Injury Prevention, vol. 6, issue 4, 2000]
Hemenway: “States With Higher Levels Of Household Gun Ownership Had Higher Rates Of Firearm Homicide.” From the Harvard Injury Control Research Center:
Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the U.S., where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide. [Harvard Injury Control Research Center, accessed 1/9/13]
American Journal Of Epidemiology Study: Having A Gun In The Home Increases The Risk Of Violent Death. A 2004 study conducted by employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that individuals who had firearms in the home were more likely to be victims of firearm homicides and suicides than individuals who did not have firearms in the home. The risk occurred regardless of the type of gun or number of guns kept in the home. [American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 160, issue 10, 2004]
MYTH: The Public Does Not Support Stronger Gun Laws
FoxNews.com's Chris Stirewalt Claims Gun Violence Prevention Measures Are “Politically Unpopular” Because “America Is Still Very Strongly Pro-Second Amendment.” From the January 8 edition of America Live on Fox News:
CHRIS STIREWALT: Jamming firearms legislation, anything that addresses gun control, which remains, restrictions on guns remain politically unpopular. People feel good about restricting access for the mentally ill, but by and large America is still very strongly pro-Second Amendment. [America Live, 1/8/13]
Meet The Press Host David Gregory: “We've Seen Declining Support Since 1990 For Stricter Gun Control Measures.” From the December 16 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR: I think the President through his leadership could get a bill like that through Congress. But at least he has got to try, that's his job.
DAVID GREGORY, HOST: But isn't it significant that he may only be able to try? That we've seen declining support since 1990 for stricter gun control measures? We've seen the assault weapons ban come and go. Tremendous political cost to Democrats when they first got it passed?
BLOOMBERG: What's the political cost? The NRA's number one objective this time was to defeat Barack Obama for a second term. The last time I checked the election results he won and he won comfortably. This myth that the NRA can destroy political careers is just not true. [Meet the Press, 12/16/12]
FACT: Specific Proposals, Such As The Assault Weapons Ban And Requiring Background Checks On Every Gun Purchase, Have Strong Public Support
USA Today/Gallup Poll Shows Strong Public Support For A Background Check On Every Gun Purchase And Banning High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines. A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted December 19-22 found 92 percent of respondents favored a background check on every gun purchase and 62 percent approved of a plan to ban the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 bullets:
[USA Today/Gallup, 12/19-22/12]
Almost Three Quarters Of NRA Members Support A Background Check On Every Gun Purchase. On July 24, 2012, Mayors Against Illegal Guns released the results of a survey conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz that found that 74 percent of NRA members and 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners support background checks on every gun sale. [Mayors Against Illegal Guns, 7/24/12]
“Close To Nine In 10 Gun Owners” Support A Background Check On Every Gun Sold. From a January 14 report on a Pew Research Center poll:
The phone survey of 1,502 adults, taken Jan. 9-13, shows broad and bipartisan consensus in support of two particular proposals:
- Making background checks on gun buyers universal, including at gun shows and in private sales, is backed by 85% of Americans, including about equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans.
- Preventing people with mental illness from buying guns is backed by 80%, including 86% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats.
Both ideas are supported by close to nine in 10 gun owners, who make up about a third of those surveyed. [USA Today,1/14/12]
Most Polling Shows Broad Support For An Assault Weapons Ban. A December 17-18, 2012 CNN poll found that 62 percent of Americans favored an assault weapons ban. A Public Policy Polling poll conducted between December 18-19, 2012 reached an almost identical result, finding 63 percent in favor of an assault weapons ban. CNN polls conducted in August 2012 and January 2011 also both found majority support for an assault weapons ban. A June 2011 Time magazine poll similarly found 62 percent of Americans supportive of an assault weapons ban. [Media Matters, 1/10/13]
MYTH: The NRA Will Remove Politicians From Office Who Support Stronger Gun Laws
NRA Leader Promised To Defeat Democrats Who Support Gun Violence Prevention During The 2014 Elections. During a November 9 appearance on NRA News, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre claimed that Democrats who support gun violence prevention laws will “go out on that plank” with President Obama and “the American public and the NRA will saw it right off”:
LAPIERRE: So what [Obama] is going to try to do is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank with him. Now that Obama has got no more elections in front of him, he is going to try to do the same thing that Bill Clinton did in '92 after he got elected, which is walk a lot of Democrats out on that plank of attacking the Second Amendment. And here's a prediction I make right now. If they go out on that plank with President Obama, he doesn't have any more elections; these Democrats will have more elections in front of them. I predict in 2014, when they are out on that plank, if they walk it with Obama, the American public and the NRA will saw it right off behind him and defend this freedom. [The Daily News, 11/9/12]
CNN: Post-Sandy Hook Massacre, NRA Will “Leverage The $17 Million It Spent In Federal Races This Year Helping Elect Candidates Who It Considers Supports Of The NRA's Mission.” From a December 19 article on CNN.com:
When the NRA does speak in detail, it will do so forcefully and with the type of political sway and heft the pro-gun lobby has carefully amassed over dozens of election cycles, experts say.
“When the emotions come down, I'm sure you'll hear the NRA address this issue. It'll be in January when legislation is introduced. They'll testify at hearings. You'll hear the same kind of arguments that I'd come up with,” said Richard Feldman, who served as regional political director for the NRA during its rise to power in the 1980s and is president of a gun rights group, the Independent Firearm Owners Association.
When that happens, the group will wield the full power of its millions of members and leverage the $17 million it spent in federal races this year helping elect candidates who it considers supporters of the NRA's mission, said policy experts. [CNN, 12/19/12]
FACT: The NRA's Ability To Influence Electoral Outcomes Has Been Vastly Overstated By The Media
Over 95 Percent Of More Than $18 Million Spent By The NRA During The 2012 Elections Went To Races Where The NRA-Backed Candidate Lost. Media Matters reviewed combined election spending by the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and the NRA Political Victory Fund, as reported by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation, and determined that less than five percent of money spent by the NRA was spent on victorious candidates. Notably, the NRA spent over $12 million in a failed attempt to defeat President Obama. [Media Matters, 12/21/12]
The NRA-Backed Candidate Was Not Elected In Six Of Their Top Seven Targeted Senate Races. The NRA spent more than $100,000 on seven general election Senate races: Ohio (more than $1 million), Virginia ($688,802), Florida ($629,553), Wisconsin ($571,811), Missouri ($343,299), Arizona ($323,474), and Maine ($117,612). Their chosen candidates was not elected in every state but Arizona and in three races, Florida, Missouri and Maine, the NRA candidate lost by more than 10 points. [Media Matters, 11/7/12]
Of 26 House Incumbents Defeated On Election Day, 18 Were Endorsed By The NRA. While the vast majority of U.S. Representatives were reelected, many Election Day losers were endorsed by the NRA and received financial contributions from the gun organization. Of the eight non-endorsed incumbents who lost, four were Democrats who lost to other Democrats in California's top-two primary system. [Media Matters, 11/13/12]
MYTH: Gun Measures Proposed By The White House And Congress Are A Pretext For Gun Confiscation
Fox News Host Kimberly Guilfoyle: “Right Now What We Are Looking At In This Country Is What People Most Fear, Which Is A Gun Grab.” [Hannity, 1/10/13]
Past NRA President Marion Hammer On Assault Weapons Ban: “We've Tried To Tell People That In Order To Control The Masses They Have To Take Your Guns.” During a January 2 appearance on NRA News, current NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer suggested that a proposal to ban assault weapons by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was a plan “to take your guns.” Hammer's comment was in response to NRA News host Ginny Simone's claim that “you listen to people in England and Australia and they look right at you and they say, 'Don't do what we did. Don't let them take your guns away.'” Simone also noted that Hammer, along with NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, have warned of gun confiscation plans “for years.” [NRA News, 1/4/13, via Media Matters]
Breitbart.com Columnist Warner Todd Huston: “Some People Fear That Government Will Use The Military To Forcibly Disarm The Public If Gun Banning Laws Get Passed.” In a December 31 column promoting the call of a retired Marine to defy a potential assault weapons ban, Huston fearmongered that Sen. Feinstein's proposed legislation could mean “that government will use the military to forcibly disarm the public.” [Breitbart.com, 12/31/12]
The Daily Caller On Proposed Assault Weapons Ban: “We Need ... Your Guns Comrade.” On January 2 the conservative Caller published an “alert” article with an accompanying graphic suggesting that Sen. Feinstein's assault weapons ban would entail gun owners turning in their weapons. [The Daily Caller, 1/2/13]
FACT: Assault Weapons Ban Would Allow Current Owners To Keep Their Weapons
Proposed Assault Weapons Ban “Grandfather[s] Weapons Legally Possessed On The Date Of Enactment.” The assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) plainly states that legal owners of assault weapons would be allowed to keep their firearms. Current owners would undergo a background check and register the serial number of their weapons under the National Firearms Act. [Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator for California, accessed 1/9/13]
No Other Option Reportedly Under Consideration Would Impact A Lawful Citizen's Ability To Purchase A Firearm. The Washington Post provided the following description of policies under discussion by the White House in a January 5 article:
The White House is weighing a far broader and more comprehensive approach to curbing the nation's gun violence than simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, according to multiple people involved in the administration's discussions.
A working group led by Vice President Biden is seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors, the sources said. [Washington Post, 1/5/12]
MYTH: Assault Weapons Are No Different From Firearms Typically Used For Sporting Purposes
Washington Times' Charlie Hurt: Assault Weapons “Far Less Powerful Than Your Average Deer Rifle.” During the January 9 edition of Happening Now on Fox News, Hurt claimed that “there was no functionality of a gun that was actually banned by the so-called assault weapons ban, it was just things that looked kind of military-like” even while noting that “we've seen these weapons at crime scenes so much lately.”
CHARLIE HURT, WASHINGTON TIMES: The whole so-called assault weapons ban, especially for people who actually knew about it, it was kind of a joke, because what it did was you had a bunch of lawmakers who didn't know anything about guns and you have a media that doesn't know about guns, and what they wound up doing is they wound up banning guns that kind of looked scary. They didn't ban anything -- there was no functionality of a gun that was actually banned by the so-called assault weapons ban, it was just things that looked kind of militarily-like. And so it was pointless, sort of. And since the repeal of it, or the expiration of it, there has been, you know, a huge explosion in the sales of the guns that were kind of scary looking. They are the most popular guns out there. They include the Bushmaster AR-15 that we've seen in two -- and I think it's also important to point out, one of the reasons I think we've seen these weapons at crime scenes so much lately is because so many people are buying them, because they like them. But there is no difference between -- in fact it's far less powerful than your average deer rifle that, you know, an 18-year-old uses to shoot deer. [Happening Now, 1/9/13]
NRA News Host: Assault Weapons Ban Is “About Cosmetics And It Has Nothing To Do About How A Firearm Works.” During the January 2 edition of NRA News, host Ginny Simone suggested that there is no difference between weapons that would fall under Sen. Feinstein's proposal and those that would not and also claimed that “this is about banning the ugliest guns.” Past NRA president Marion Hammer agreed, comparing the idea of banning firearms based on appearance to racial discrimination. [NRA News, 1/4/13, via Media Matters]
Townhall's Katie Pavlich: “The Term 'Assault Weapon' Is A Made Up Political Term.” [Townhall, 12/28/12]
NEW: Washington Times' Emily Miller: Attempts To Ban High-Capacity Magazines Are A “Scare Tactic” Because Those Magazines Do Not “Enable Murderers To Kill More People.” From a January 27 article titled, “The high-capacity magazine myth”:
The anti-gun crowd labels any firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10-rounds “high-capacity.” It's a scare tactic.
Many firearms come from the factory with devices that feed between 15 to 30 rounds -- some hold more, some less depending on their configuration and purpose. Ten is a number chosen out of thin air for reasons of political theater. The gun grabbers use it to imply the higher-capacity magazines enable murderers to kill more people, but it doesn't actually work out that way. [The Washington Times, 1/27/13]
FACT: Assault Weapons Are Designed To Be More Lethal Than Other Firearms
Violence Policy Center: Assault Weapons Are “Designed For Laying Down A High Volume Of Fire Over A Wide Killing Zone.” From a June 2011 report detailing a trend in firearm manufacturing to militarize civilian firearms:
The world's armies developed assault weapons to meet specific combat needs. All assault weapons--military and civilian alike--incorporate specific features that were designed for laying down a high volume of fire over a wide killing zone. This is sometimes known as “hosing down” an area. Civilian assault weapons feature the specific military design features that make spray-firing easy and distinguish assault weapons from traditional sporting firearms.
The most important of these design features are--
· High-capacity detachable ammunition magazines that hold as many as 75 rounds of ammunition.
· A rear pistol grip (handle), including so-called “thumbhole stocks” and magazines that function like pistol grips.
· A forward grip or barrel shroud. Forward grips (located under the barrel or the forward stock) give a shooter greater control over a weapon during firing. [Violence Policy Center, June 2011]
NEW: Mass Shootings Involving Assault Weapons Or High-Capacity Magazines That Occurred Between 2009 And 2013 Involved Resulted In 54 Percent More Deaths Than In Other Incidents. From a January 2013 report issued by Mayors Against Illegal Guns:
Assault weapons or high-capacity magazines were used in at least 12 of the  incidents (28%). These incidents resulted in an average of 7.3 deaths -- 54% more deaths than in other incidents (5.4) -- and 15.6 total people shot -- 123% more total people injured or killed than in other incidents (7.0). [Mayors Against Illegal Guns, January 2013]
Johns Hopkins Center For Gun Policy And Research: “Mass Shootings Involving Assault Weapons Typically Involve More Victims Per Incident Than Mass Shootings With Other Weapons.” The October 2012 report noted a number of public mass shootings where the shooter used an assault weapon and/or a high-capacity magazine including the Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 victims dead and 17 wounded, a shooting in Fort Hood, Texas that left 13 dead and dozens wounded, an assassination attempt on former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords that left six dead and 13 wounded, and a mass shooting at an Aurora, Colorado cinema that left 12 dead and 58 wounded. Since the publication of the report, a gunman used an assault rifle to kill 20 children and six educators in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. [John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, October 2012]
Citizens Crime Commission Of New York City: “The Increased Lethality” Of Mass Shootings “Is Made Possible By The Use Of Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines.” The Citizens Crime Commission has identified 30 mass shooting incidents since 1984 where the shooter used a high-capacity magazine. [Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, accessed 1/9/13]
NEW: Army Field Manual Describes How Semi-Automatic Fire Is More Effective Than Automatic Fire In Most Combat Situations. The Army describes semi-automatic fire as "[t]he most important firing technique during modern, fast moving combat":
The most important firing technique during modern, fast moving combat is rapid semiautomatic fire. Rapid-fire techniques are the key to hitting the short exposure, multiple, or moving targets described previously. If properly applied, rapid semiautomatic fire delivers a large volume of effective fire into a target area. The soldier intentionally fires a quick series of shots into the target area to assure a high probability of a hit.
When a soldier uses rapid semiautomatic fire properly, he sacrifices some accuracy to deliver a greater volume of effective fire to hit more targets. It is surprising how devastatingly accurate rapid fire can be. At ranges beyond 25 meters, rapid semiautomatic fire is superior to automatic fire in all measures (shots per target, trigger pulls per hit, and even time to hit).
Automatic or burst fire delivers the maximum amount of rounds to a target area. It should be trained only after the soldier has demonstrated expertise during slow and rapid semiautomatic fire. Automatic or burst fire involves the rapid application of the four fundamentals while delivering from one to three rounds per second into a designated area. This technique of fire allows a unit to place the most fire in a target area (when conserving ammunition is not a consideration). It is a specialized technique of delivering suppressive fire and may not apply to most combat engagements. [FM 3-22.9, Rifle Marksmanship M16A1, M16A2/3, M16A4 and M4 Carbine, accessed 1/29/13 via GlobalSecurity.org]
MYTH: There Is No Such Thing As The Private Sales Loophole
NRA News Host Cam Edwards: People Prohibited From Owning Firearms Cannot Exploit The Private Sales Loophole. During the January 3 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News, host Cam Edwards first told guest Jim Geraghty, who writes for the National Review Online, that Geragthy was “incorrect” in his assumption that background checks are not required at gun shows. Edwards would later acknowledge that private sellers at gun shows conduct sales without running a background check on customers, but he also claimed that it was impossible for individuals prohibited from owning firearms under federal law from obtaining weapons through this process.
CAM EDWARDS, HOST: Are there background checks done at gun shows?
JIM GERAGHTY: I'm going to go out on a limb and say, I actually -- since you're asking that question I'm guessing maybe I don't know what I think I know.
EDWARDS: Would you say no? Is that what you wanted to say?
GERAGHTY: My sense is that they are not required. Am I incorrect there?
EDWARDS: You are incorrect.
GERAGHTY: Now I know that there are certain lists in which you are not allowed to own a gun, in many cases criminal record, domestic abuse, circumstances like that.
EDWARDS: Adjudicated mentally defective.
GERAGHTY: Ok, alright, so in those categories can you purchase a gun through these private sales?
EDWARDS: Not legally.
GERAGHTY: Alright so there you go -- so the question -- worth noting, ok.
EDWARDS: So no. There. [Cam & Company, 1/3/13]
FACT: Private Sales Without A Background Check, Which Are Often Conducted At Gun Shows, Are Extremely Common
According To Most Recent Data, 40 Percent Of Gun Sales Are Conducted Through Private Sellers, Not Licensed Dealers. According to a PolitiFact review of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's statement on a July 2012 appearance on CBS' Face the Nation that 40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check:
Buying a gun has required a background check since the Brady Act took effect in 1994. (James Brady was badly wounded during the assassination attempt on President Reagan; he was Reagan's press secretary.) Under the law, federally licensed dealers must verify that a buyer has not been convicted of a serious crime or declared mentally incompetent or is blocked for any of about 10 reasons. Typically this is done online and takes less than a day.
But only licensed dealers must do this. The law doesn't apply to private sellers at gun shows, flea markets, or people who post firearms for sale on the Internet. If a private seller suspects that a buyer would be disqualified under federal rules, then they can't go through with the sale. But there is no background check, and no one needs to file any paperwork.
Bloomberg's office pointed us to a 1997 study by the National Institute of Justice on who owns guns and how they use them. The researchers estimated that about 40 percent of all firearm sales took place through people other than licensed dealers. They based their conclusion on a random survey of more than 2,500 households.
In 1999, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives released a report on gun shows. Investigators found that a quarter of the vendors were private sellers, not licensed dealers, and reported that “felons and other prohibited persons who want to avoid Brady Act checks and records of their purchase buy firearms at these shows.” They said guns from such shows had been used in drug crimes.
Both of these reports are at least 10 years out of date. We called the ATF and asked if there was anything more recent. They had nothing new to add. We called the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, groups that oppose new efforts to track gun transactions. Neither organization responded. [PolitiFact.com, 7/25/12]
Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence: Private Sales Loophole Has Been Exploited By Gun Traffickers And Used To Supply Firearms To Criminals. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence explained how a deficiency in federal law concerning how firearms sellers are licensed allows dangerous individuals to obtain firearms without a background check:
The Gun Control Act of 1968 provides that persons “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms must be licensed. Although Congress did not originally define the term “engaged in the business,” it did so in 1986 as part of the McClure-Volkmer Act (also known as the “Firearms Owners' Protection Act”). That Act defined the term “engaged in the business,” as applied to a firearms dealer, as “a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.”
Significantly, however, the term was defined to exclude a person who “makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”
Consequently, unlicensed sellers may sell firearms without conducting background checks or documenting the transaction in any way. In addition, because federal law does not require private sellers to inspect a buyer's driver's license or any other identification, there is no obligation for such sellers to confirm that a buyer is of legal age to purchase a firearm. As a result, convicted felons, minors and other prohibited purchasers can easily buy guns from unlicensed sellers.
According to a 1999 report issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the current definition of “engaged in the business” often frustrates the prosecution of “unlicensed dealers masquerading as collectors or hobbyists but who are really trafficking firearms to felons or other prohibited persons.” A June 2000 ATF report found that unlicensed sellers were involved in about a fifth of the trafficking investigations and associated with nearly 23,000 diverted guns. A national survey of firearm ownership conducted in 1994 determined that 60 percent of all firearm sales in the U.S. involved federally licensed dealers, while the remaining 40 percent of firearms were acquired from unlicensed sellers. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accessed 1/10/13]
New York City Undercover Investigation: Most Private Sellers Agreed To Sell Firearm To Someone Who Said They Couldn't Pass A Background Check. In an investigation of 10 websites that allow unlicensed sellers to list firearms for sale, undercover investigators working for New York City found that 77 out of 125 sellers agreed to go forward with a firearm sale after the purchaser said that he could not pass a background check. [City of New York, December 2011]
MYTH: Closing The Private Sales Loophole Would Prohibit Private Citizens From Selling Firearms
Fox Regular Kate Obenshain On Fox & Friends: Prohibiting “Individuals From Being Able To Sell Guns To Other Individuals” Is What “Closing The Gun Show Loophole Is About.” During a January 8 appearance on Fox News, Obenshain suggested that closing the private sales loophole would mean that gun owners could no longer sell firearms to a “buddy down the street.” [Fox & Friends, 1/8/13]
FACT: Gun Show Loophole Legislation Allows For Private Sales To Continue, So Long As A Background Check Is Performed On The Buyer
In States Where The Private Sales Loophole Is Closed, Gun Owners Can Sell Their Weapons So Long As The Purchaser Undergoes A Background Check. A summary of state law from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence shows that in those few states that require a background check for all gun sales, private sellers may sell their weapons to other individuals, so long as the buyer undergoes a background check conducted by a licensed firearms dealer or law enforcement agency. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accessed 1/9/13]
Gun Show Loophole Legislation Introduced In Previous Congress Permitted Private Sales. S. 35, a bill introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) during the 112th Congress to establish background check procedures for gun shows, would have allowed private sellers to make sales at gun shows through licensed dealers. [S. 35 via Government Printing Office, accessed 1/9/13]
MYTH: The Obama Administration Will Use Executive Orders To Override The Second Amendment
Fox News Host Brian Kilmeade: President Obama May Use Executive Order To “Gut The Second Amendment.” On the January 10 edition of Fox & Friends, Kilmeade said, “What Constitution? Vice President Joe Biden says the president may crack down on guns by executive order. Will they really gut the Second Amendment?” [Fox & Friends, 1/10/13]
Fox Business Host Lou Dobbs: Executive Order Proposal Is An “Assault On The Second Amendment.” From the January 10 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight:
LOU DOBBS: We continue our look at the White House assault on the Second Amendment, the President's insistence that he can rule, if you will, by decree, by fiat in what is still after all a constitutional republic.
DOBBS: Our Vice President has said that the President will, if necessary, be using executive order to control guns in this country. Can he?
PETER JOHNSON JR., FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think there is any question in my mind that he will. I don't think he is going to be any more powerful than he is right now in terms of public popularity. And so there are things that I think they are looking at, that they will try to do, to change the dialogue, to change the dynamic of guns in America, to show action, even if it provokes legal action. So this president can say, “I've done something. I've made it harder for Americans to get legal firearms because I believe it's an outrage, and I'm standing up for the victims in America.” That's what he is going to do say. And I do believe that they will tweak certain pieces of the law in order to do that. [Lou Dobbs Tonight, 1/10/13]
FACT: Executive Order Proposals On Gun Violence Have Not Involved Restricting Weapons That Law-Abiding Americans Can Purchase
Politico: Biden Told House Dems That Executive Orders Will Focus On Enforcing Existing Law. From a January 15 Politico article:
The White House has identified 19 executive actions for President Barack Obama to move unilaterally on gun control, Vice President Joe Biden told a group of House Democrats on Monday, the administration's first definitive statements about its response to last month's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The executive actions could include giving the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authority to conduct national research on guns, more aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws and pushing for wider sharing of existing gun databases among federal and state agencies, members of Congress in the meeting said.
“It was all focusing on enforcing existing law, administering things like improving the background database, things like that that do not involve a change in the law but enforcing and making sure that the present law is administered as well as possible,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.). [Politico, 1/15/12]
The New York Times: Proposed And Previously Discarded Executive Action On Guns Aimed To Improve Background Check System, Not Confiscate Guns A December 15 article in The New York Times noted that the Department of Justice had proposed using executive action on “improving the background check system” and “did not call for banning weapons,” but that those initiatives had not been carried out. [The New York Times, 12/15/12]
Precedent For Using Executive Order For The Purpose Of Gun Violence Prevention Is Robust. In 1968 President Lyndon Johnson signed an executive order regulating the importation of certain firearms. The administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton both used executive order to ban the importation of certain assault weapons, including some variations of the AK-47 and the Uzi. [Media Matters, 1/10/13]