Gun control steps include executive order on background checks, new ATF chief

Obama and Biden unveiled the plan Wednesday. Obama and Biden unveiled the plan Wednesday. Charles Dharapak/AP

The sweeping gun-control package that President Obama unveiled on Wednesday includes proposals to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and limit high-capacity magazines, and measures to improve mental health care. Many of the proposals will need congressional approval but also included are executive actions Obama plans to take. The proposals were developed by a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden in the aftermath of the mass shooting shooting last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Here is a look at what Obama is proposing:

Assault Weapons Ban: Obama is seeking a reinstatement of an earlier federal ban, which expired in 2004. The original measure was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, but Congress declined to renew it.

Limiting High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines: Advocates of a limit on high-capacity magazines believe it could slow down a shooter planning to carry out a massacre, like the one at Sandy Hook. Obama’s proposal would limit these magazines to 10 bullets. Rep. Ron Barber, who was shot in the Tucson, Ariz., massacre, is one of the advocates for this proposal.

Getting Rid of Armor-Piercing Bullets: Although it is illegal to manufacture and import armor-piercing bullets in the U.S., the president is sending legislation to Congress that will ban the possession and transfer of armor-piercing bullets.

Gun Trafficking Law: A favorite of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun control group with major backing from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, this measure would help prevent the trafficking of guns between states. This measure would make it easier for law enforcement officers to go after “strawmen” who buys guns for other people and transfer them across party lines.

Universal Background Checks: Anyone who buys a gun at a store, a gun show or through other private sellers would have to go through a criminal background check before purchasing the weapon, under this legislative proposal. Senior White House officials said there would be exceptions for transfers between family members, however. The president will also direct the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to explain to licensed dealers how to best run background checks on potential buyers.

Tougher Background Check System: Through executive action, the administration will give states $20 million in new incentives to share their information with a broader background check system. The president will address legal barriers to reporting information that the White House has deemed unnecessary. The president will also ask federal agencies to update their records and make them available to the national background check database.

Review of Prohibitions on Gun Ownership: The president will ask the attorney general to look into current laws that outline which people are prohibited from buying guns, and make appropriate recommendations to improve the system. Currently, felons and some persons with disabilities are not allowed to purchase weapons.

Nominate A New Head to the ATF: Obama will nominate Todd Jones as permanent head of the ATF. The agency has been without a congressionally confirmed director in six years. Jones is a U.S. attorney in Minnesota and has been serving as acting head of the ATF.

Gun Violence Research: The president is seeking a resumption of research by the Centers for Disease Control on gun violence. Congress halted the research because of lawmaker concerns that the agency was advocating for gun control. The agency would be tasked with looking into the causes of gun violence, including a correlation between video games and violent behavior.

School Safety: The administration, through executive order, will allow local communities to use money under the “COPS” initiative – which is aimed at putting more police officers on the street -- to hire “school resource officers” who could help improve safety in schools. The White House would also make more money available to cities and towns to allow them to hire more mental health workers for schools. The administration will also work with schools to help them develop emergency plans that could help them become better equipped to respond to incidents such as a shooting.

Combating Bullying: Through the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration will provide new resources aimed at reducing bullying.

Obamacare Regulations: The administration will develop regulations for the Affordable Care Act aimed at ensuring comprehensive care for mental health problems. This would include putting money toward new social workers and psychologists.

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