Gun control advocates still awaiting action
10 June 2013, 14:49
Washington — It's been six months since the deadly school shooting that made gun control a top US issue once again, and families of some of the victims are going back to Washington to remind lawmakers they are painfully waiting for action.
Meanwhile, some of President Barack Obama's allies are asking him to do more, though his proposals to toughen gun laws have largely failed in Congress.
The lobbying visit on Tuesday and Wednesday is one of several observances planned to mark a half-year after the 14 December massacre of 20 young children and six staff at a Connecticut school by a gunman with a legally purchased, high-powered rifle.
Nicole Hockley, who lost 6-year-old Dylan, said the fight for new laws, which the families also have taken to several states, has left them emotionally exhausted, but they won't give up "no matter how long it takes".
"It is very disappointing that six months have passed, and although we are making progress in individual states, we aren't making progress on the federal level when it comes to background checks when an overwhelming number of Americans support it," she said in a telephone interview.
Obama has said he would do everything he could to stem gun violence even without Congress.
The Centre for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to the White House, is asking Obama to issue a dozen more executive actions they say are within his power to reduce gun crimes. The group has been pushing those measures in meetings with the White House, where Vice President Joe Biden declared in an e-mail to supporters on Friday, "This fight is far from over."
Obama issued 23 executive actions after the Connecticut shooting and hasn't ruled out doing more. His aides say he isn't planning to announce any new initiatives or hold a gun-related event this week but will likely acknowledge the six-month mark.
Arkadi Gerney, a senior fellow at the Centre for American Progress, said their recommendations build on Obama's earlier actions with more specific measures to vigorously prosecute gun crimes. The centre's suggestions include a system to alert local police when felons attempt to buy guns, allowing firearms dealers to run the same background checks on their own employees as they do for customers, penalising states that don't provide mental health data to the background check system and confiscating firearms from domestic abusers.
Gerney said one recommendation grew out of the Boston Marathon bombing case in April, after the suspects reportedly scratched off the serial number on a handgun used in a firefight with police to prevent tracking. He said Obama's Justice Department could require manufacturers to place a second serial number inside the barrel or another hidden location.
But the National Rifle Association, which has successfully helped block any new guns laws, said it sees no further need for executive action. "The problem we have is lack of enforcement and lack of prosecution," said NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam.
Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, argued that the most meaningful difference has to come from Congress passing a law to make the background checks that are currently required for sales in stores to apply to online and gun show purchases.
Glaze said his group is trying to pressure senators who voted against background-check legislation in April with television ads and a summer bus tour kicking off in the Connecticut town on Friday that is scheduled to travel to 25 states. Several groups are holding an event in front of the Capitol on Thursday.
Democratic Senate aides said it was unlikely Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would force a new vote on the background-check legislation unless he had the 60 votes needed to win or, at the very least, had more votes than previously.