Updates on President Obama's Executive Order to Reduce Gun Violence

May 10, 2016Tracy Wolf

Building upon the executive order that President Obama issued in January to reduce gun violence, the White House recently announced progress on its implementation. The update had three main components:

  1. Update on smart gun technology: Too many gun deaths are accidental or occur because a firearm is lost or stolen, and obtained by someone who shouldn’t possess it. President Obama released a memo in January, directing research to explore technology to reduce unintentional shootings and unauthorized use of firearms, and last week, the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Justice released a memo on next steps.

For the first time, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security will define the requirements that manufacturers would need to meet for law enforcement agencies to consider purchasing guns with smart technology, and have committed to completing this process by October 2016.

The Department of Defense will help manufacturers test their smart firearms technology at an army test center in Maryland. Manufacturers may also be eligible for cash prizes as an incentive to participate in the program.

Lastly, the federal government is providing guidance to state and local governments regarding grants to help purchase smart gun technology. These updates will create momentum around smart gun technology, which has the potential to save countless lives.

  1. Addressing mental illness: In the January executive order, President Obama called for a $500 million dollar investment in mental health treatment. He acknowledged that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of gun violence rather than the perpetrators, and made clear that because of the link between guns and suicides, the United States needs better address mental illness. As a part of the White House’s announcement, the Social Security Administration is announcing a proposed rule to help ensure appropriate information in its records is reported to the background check system. The rule would also provide a way for people to seek exemption from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.
  2. Engagement with state and local officials: The White House announced that this May, they will be hosting a 50-state gun violence prevention convening, the first ever of its kind. The convening will bring together state and local elected officials and will focus on ways states can improve their reporting to the NICS background check system, in addition to broader efforts to prevent gun violence.

Jewish scripture encourages peaceful pursuit of our mutual welfare. Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isaiah 2:4). Just as we are commanded to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society, it is important that we update our firearms technology for the safety of our community. These updates to the President’s executive order will help the United States to do just that.

President Obama’s executive actions and recent updates are significant and meaningful on their own, congressional support is needed to comprehensively tackle this crisis; to find and fully implement the executive order; and to make sure these common sense steps are not overturned by future presidents. It is important to take action and urge your Members of Congress to support President Obama’s executive order to prevent gun violence.

The next webinar in our gun violence prevention Active Learning Network series is on Tuesday, May 17 at 12:00pm ET. It will focus on how to participate in local action through Metro IAF’s Do Not Stand Idly by Campaign. Related to the President’s recent announcements, we will also learn about how to harness the purchasing power of the government to invest in smart gun technology and reduce gun violence.

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