President Obama’s Executive Actions to Address Gun Violence

January 6, 2016Tracy Wolf

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

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.

To learn more about gun violence prevention, visit our issue page. For more information on the executive action, read this fact sheet from the White House.   

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