The Obameter

Better enforce gun laws

"My belief is that we have to enforce the laws we've already got, make sure that we're keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, those who are mentally ill. We've done a much better job in terms of background checks, but we've got more to do when it comes to enforcement. But weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don't belong on our streets. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced."


Obama takes executive action to better enforce gun laws

In a tearful speech, President Barack Obama laid out a series of executive orders intended to reduce gun violence.

A large part of this plan — the first major initiative of Obama's last year in office — focuses on better enforcing current gun laws.

"We're going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books," he said Jan. 5, 2016.

At the top of the list is improving the background check system.

He has asked the FBI to immediately hire more than 200 new employees. Obama envisions that the FBI will improve the system technology and be able to process background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He is also encouraging states to provide the federal government with more robust criminal and mental health records.

Obama has directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to "clarify" that anyone "engaged in the business of dealing in firearms" needs a license and must require background checks of purchasers. This means self-described hobbyists who regularly sell guns, as opposed to just occasionally, might be violating the law by operating without a license.

He also requested the ATF to hire more than 200 agents and investigators to better enforce current laws. The ATF will direct more attention to programs that work on gun crime intelligence and online firearms trafficking.

Of course, Congress still has to fund these initiatives, and it's possible that the next president could reverse them. Some of the Republican candidates have pledged to do just that. And there are some questions about how effective his proposals will be.

For now, we'll keep this promise rated In the Works.


White House, "Remarks by the President on Common-Sense Gun Safety Reform," Jan. 5, 2016

White House, "New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer," Jan. 4, 2016

New York Times, "Obama's Action on Guns: What It Means for Background Checks," Jan. 5, 2016

Better enforcement part of Obama plan to reduce gun violence

President Barack Obama made an emotional plea to lawmakers Thursday to strengthen the nation's gun laws.

But he also told voters in October 2012 that to keep assault weapons out of the hands of criminals, "we have to enforce the laws we've already got.”

(He also proposed reintroducing an assault weapons ban, something we're tracking separately.)

Has the re-elected president followed his own prescription that there's "more to do when it comes to enforcement”?

In January 2013, a month after a shooter killed 26 people, including 20 children, in Newtown, Conn., he released a plan to reduce gun violence.

It includes several measures that focus on enforcement of existing laws, such as:

• Encouraging private sellers to sell their guns through licensed dealers so buyers face background checks.

• Asking Congress for $4 billion "to help keep 15,000 cops on the street.”

• Requiring federal law enforcement agencies to trace all firearms picked up during criminal investigations to "help … reveal gun trafficking patterns.”

• Asking U.S. attorneys to consider stepping up prosecutions of felons illegally seeking firearms, or people who provide false information to pass background checks.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department will offer $25 million in grants to states to help them boost the number of records, especially mental health records, in the background check system.

The proposals are less than three months old, and it's too early to judge whether stronger enforcement will result. But it's a start. We rate this promise In the Works.


White House, "Remarks by the President on Gun Safety," March 28, 2013

White House, "Now is the time: The president's plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence,” Jan. 16, 2013

Justice Department, "Reducing Gun Violence and Preventing Future Tragedies," Feb. 13, 2013