Amid several highly publicized mass shootings and a gridlocked Congress, it became apparent during President Barack Obama's second term that new gun laws were not going to be passed. So he focused on making the current ones stronger.
While unable to get lawmakers to pass a new assault weapons ban (we rated that a Promise Broken), Obama did what he could to boost laws on the books.
In January 2013, a month after 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Ct., Obama announced a sweeping set of suggested legislation and 23 executive actions.
His plan to reduce gun violence included a focus on mental health treatment, limiting magazine sizes, strengthening background checks and restarting federal gun research that had been frozen for years. Obama issued further actions on medical histories in background checks in 2014.
Another round of executive actions announced in January 2016 included further augmenting licensing requirements and background checks, funding more federal agents, tracing guns found during investigations to determine trafficking patterns, and guiding U.S. attorneys to go after felons looking to buy guns or people lying in order to pass background checks. The Justice Department also boosted funding for background check records, especially mental health records.
In April, stemming from those actions, Obama announced a new focus on researching and promoting smart gun technology, which requires firearms to be keyed to specific users in order to work. He also said the Social Security Administration was working to add mental health records to background checks.
Most of these actions didn't require much action by Congress, said Christian Heyne, legislative director at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Instead, his directives were designed to bring gun control issues to the forefront of debates and refocus agency priorities — although these all could change under a new administration.
Because of these actions, Heyne said, gun control has become a topic that has been more accepted at the state level.
"I just don't think the movement would be where it is without someone in office who has done everything he could to change things," Heyne said.
Obama said he wanted to better enforce current gun laws. With an intractable Congress, he issued multiple executive actions that did seek to bolster laws in place, although these actions don't carry the same weight as law.
We rate this Promise Kept.