On Jan. 5, 2016, President Obama unveiled his new strategy to curb gun violence in America. His proposals focus on new background check requirements that will enhance the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and greater education and enforcement efforts of existing laws at the state level. As more information becomes available, this document will be updated. The 2015 plan:
- Directs the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to require any business that engages in the sale of guns to obtain a federal license to do so and conduct background checks. This requirement applies to gun stores, sellers of guns at gun shows, and sellers of guns over the Internet. The licensing requirement applies to all sellers “engaged in the business” of selling guns, regardless of how frequent or how many sales there are. Failure to obtain a license to sell will carry criminal penalties of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Failure to conduct a required background check will also carry penalties.
- Requires the ATF Bureau to issue a rule requiring background checks for purchasers of certain dangerous firearms and other items who purchase them through a trust, corporation or other legal entity. It will also issue a rule clarifying that gun dealers/licensees who ship firearms have the responsibility to notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.
- Encourages greater communications between federal and state authorities on criminal history information. The Obama administration seeks to increase the dialog with states to ensure the background check system is as comprehensive as it can be.
- Instructs the FBI to overhaul the background check system to make it more efficient and accurate. Improvements include increasing personnel by 50 percent, modernize NICS to allow for background checks to be processed 24/7 and permit better notification of state and local authorities when certain prohibited persons attempt to buy a gun.
- Calls for increased funding to ATF for the hiring of 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce existing gun laws. ATF is also directed to establish an Internet Investigation Center with dedicated personnel to track illegal online firearms trafficking. The plan dedicates $4 million to and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.
- Asks the attorney general to encourage federal U.S. attorneys to work with state and local authorities and groups to increase prevention of domestic violence and to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms.
- Proposes a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce. The Department of Health and Human Services will finalize a rule removing legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.
- Requires inclusion of mental health information from the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. To this end. SSA will issue a rule to ensure that this information is reported to NICS. This rule will also include a waiver provision available to people seeking relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm because of mental health reasons. Further details will be available upon issuance of this rule.
- Directs the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the likelihood of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of a firearm. Requires that a strategy for real-world deployment of this technology be prepared within 90 days.
- Calls upon state attorneys general to focus resources on eliminating the most dangerous and impactful cases in illegal gun trafficking, and violent offenders who bypass the background check system and purchase guns illegally.
- Removes certain legal barriers preventing states from reporting information to NICS. HHS has been directed to clarify through a rule that certain Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act covered entities are permitted to provide limited demographic and other necessary information about people with mental illness who are prohibited from possessing a firearm to the NICS.
Overview | January 2013 Gun Proposal From President Obama
President Obama has unveiled a plan to address gun violence in the nation. The initiative consists of 23 executive actions and three presidential memoranda, most of which will require congressional approval. Many parts of the plan may have significant effects on states.
- Requires background checks for all gun sales and strengthens the background check system. This would include removing barriers under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act so that states may more freely share information about mental health issues involving potential gun purchasers.
- Provides states with monetary incentives—$20 million in fiscal year FY 2013 and a proposed $50 million in FY 2014—to share information so that records on criminal history and people prohibited from gun ownership due to mental health reasons are more available.
- Bans military-style assault weapons and limits magazines to a capacity of 10 rounds.
- Provides additional tools to law enforcement. The plan proposes a crackdown on gun trafficking by asking Congress to pass legislation that closes “loopholes” in gun trafficking laws and establishes strict penalties for “straw purchasers” who pass a background check and then pass guns on to prohibited people.
- Urges Congress to pass the administration’s $4 billion proposal to keep 15,000 state and local police officers on the street to help deter gun crime.
- Maximizes efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime. The president calls upon the attorney general to work with U.S. attorneys across the country to determine gaps occurring in this area and where supplemental resources are appropriate.
- Provides training for “active shooter” situations to 14,000 law enforcement, first responders and school officials.
- Directs the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to issue a statement to health care providers that they are not prohibited by federal law from reporting threats of violence to the proper authorities.
- Launches a national gun safety campaign to encourage responsible gun ownership and authorizes the Consumer Product Safety Commission to examine issues relating to gun safety locks.
- Helps schools invest in safety. The president’s plan calls for more school resource officers and counselors in all schools through the Community Oriented Policing Services hiring program. The plan also calls for the federal government to assist schools in developing emergency management plans.
- Improves mental health awareness through enhanced teacher training and referrals for treatment. The plan calls for the training of 5,000 additional mental health professionals nationwide. The plan also calls for coverage of mental health treatment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008.