The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
2016 is off to a great start in the fight for social justice! On Tuesday, President Obama issued an executive order against gun violence. This is a historic victory for gun violence prevention, and is a great step towards preventing future tragedies that have become all too familiar in the United States. The Reform Movement applauded President Obama’s executive order to address the scourge of gun violence in the United States.
The executive order has several key components, which all together address pressing issues surrounding gun violence:
Background checks for more gun sales
The problem: Our laws state that individuals who are “engaged in the business” of selling firearms need to acquire a license and conduct background checks on gun sales. However, the definition of who qualified as a firearms dealer “engaged in the business” was extremely vague.
What the order addressed: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) issued a new guidance that clarifies which gun sellers are “engaged in the business” and are therefore required to obtain a license and conduct background checks. This will increase the number of background checks conducted on gun sales, regardless of where the sale is made.
What still needs to be done: While this guidance will help to decrease the amount of guns sold without a background check, many people who remain outside of the definition of “engaged in the business” will continue to sell guns legally without a license and background check. Because of this large gap that still exists, Congress must take action and make improvements to our background checks system.
Delays in completing background checks
The problem: Since it started in 1998, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has prevented thousands of prohibited purchasers from obtaining a gun. A current gap in federal law allows a licensed firearm dealer who conducts a background check to sell a gun if the check hasn’t been completed after 72 hours. However, when a NICS check takes more than 24 hours to complete, a person is 20 times more likely to be a prohibited purchaser. Further, NICS can only work if it has complete records.
What the order did: The executive order directs the FBI to hire over 230 new personnel that will help NICS complete background check investigations more quickly. Further, the Department of Justice has asked state officials to focus on closing record reporting gaps that enable people who would be prohibited purchasers from slipping through cracks in our background checks system due to missing records.
What still needs to be done: While the executive order will ensure that many more background checks are completed in a timely manner, it is up to Congress to close the 72 hour loophole and require that every background check that is conducted is completed before a gun is sold.
Exploring safety and smart gun technology
The problem: Far too many gun deaths are accidental, for children and adults alike. In many aspects of today’s society, safety features are built into almost everything. Why isn’t the same type of attention and care put into building up the safety features of firearms?
What the order did: The president released a memo which directs research to be conducted to explore technology that will reduce unintentional shootings and unauthorized use of firearms. The federal government will also regularly review the availability of smart gun technology and how to further its development and implementation.
Our tradition emphasizes the sanctity and primary value of human life. We are taught, “he who saves one life, it is as though he has saved the universe,” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). The executive actions that were taken have the potential to save countless lives, and further our ultimate goal of a just world.
Although the actions taken by President Obama are significant and meaningful, there is still much work that needs to be done. It is important now more than ever to work off of this great momentum and further prevent gun violence in the United States. In order to be fully implemented, the executive order requires cooperation and partnership from Congress. Take action and urge your Members of Congress to support President Obama’s executive order against gun violence.