What You Need to Know About President Obama’s Announcement on Gun Control

This past week President Barack Obama made an emotional plea on the need to improve gun control in the United States. Learn more about what grants U.S. Americans the right to have guns, how the laws differ between states when it comes to college campuses, and President Obama’s executive action on gun control.

You may have seen in the news President Obama’s emotional plea on doing something about the amount of gun violence in the United States.

According to The White House, more than 100,000 people in the United States have been killed in the past 10 years as a result of gun violence and millions have been victims of assaults, robberies, and other crimes that involve guns.

What Grants Americans the Right to Have Guns?

In 1790, the extent of what was the United States. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
In 1790, the extent of what was the United States. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Well, we need to take a brief look at history to understand this.

On July 4, 1776 the United States declared independence from Great Britain. This is the beginning of what is known in history as the American Revolution. Several reasons for the revolution included “taxation without representation” and restriction of personal freedoms from a “tyrannical government”.

It was in 1783 when Britain recognized the independence of the U.S. and signed a peace treaty. In 1787, the U.S. Constitution was created. This is the supreme law of the country.

A few years later the Bill of Rights would be added to the constitution. These are the first 10 amendments of the constitution that lists the rights of Americans.

The second amendment is known as the “right to bear arms”. This amendment gives the people the right to keep and use firearms.

A fresh, new country based on freedoms and inalienable rights wanted to make sure people had the right of self-defense.

Since the establishment of the U.S., this amendment has been debated time and time again. In 2008, the Supreme Court decided a landmark decision in the case of the District of Columbia v. Heller saying the amendment does in fact protect an individual’s right to possess and carry firearms.

But still, the debate continues. Especially with the amount of violence and death as a result of guns.

So, Are Guns Allowed on College Campuses? 

It depends on the state and the institution.

In the article A Letter to International Students on How to Survive Your Education in America written by Dennis Jett, a Professor of International Affairs at Penn State University, he summarizes very well how some states treat guns on campuses.

  1. States that allow guns on campus: Colorado, Idaho, and Utah.
  2. States that allow guns on campus, but let schools decide on limitations: Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin.
  3. States that allow guns to be kept in cars: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
  4. States that provide no guidance and allows institutions to set their own rules (so check with the colleges): Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
  5. States where guns on campus are prohibited by law: Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

President Obama’s Executive Action on Guns 

Really quick: what does executive action mean? This is not to be confused with executive order.

Executive action: an informal proposal or move by the president that describes what the president would like to do and calls on Congress to take action.

Executive order: When the president gives an executive order, that means that it’s now a law. They can be subject to judicial review and taken away if the courts say it’s not supported by the constitution.

The executive action President Obama proposed included the following:

  • Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks
    • If you sell guns, you must get a license and conduct background checks
    • Required background checks for people trying to buy weapons through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity
    • The FBI will overhaul the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. Improvements would allow background checks to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and add 230 additional examiners to process the background checks.
  • Make our communities safer from gun violence
    • A budget that will fund 200 new ATF agents to help enforce gun laws
    • Established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and added $4 million and more personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network
    • ATF would require dealers who ship firearms to notify authorities if guns are lost or stolen

What does ATF stand for? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This is a special law enforcement agency in the U.S. Department of Justice that works to protect against violent criminals, organizations, illegal use and trafficking of firearms and explosives, acts of arson, terrorism, and illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.

  • Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system
    • Proposing $500 million investment to crease access to mental health care
    • Social Security Administration said they would include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons
    • The Department of Health and Human Services will remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons
  • Shape the future of gun safety technology
    • The Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to take important steps to promote smart gun technology
        • Increase research and development efforts: reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms by improving the ability to trace lost or stolen guns
        • Promote the use and acquisition of new technology in order to improve gun safety


You can watch President Obama’s entire speech below

Will This Finally Bring Change to Gun Violence in America?

That is really hard to say. There are those who feel very strongly about their rights to have and carry guns and feel like the executive action proposed by President Obama would infringe on that right.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is the most influential gun rights group in the country. They have a membership of around 5 million people and enough money to persuade politicians in terms of financial contributions to political campaigns.

President Obama invited the NRA to a meeting Wednesday, January 7 to discuss gun violence, but according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, “the NRA sees no reason to participate”.

According to a CNN/ORC poll in December 2015, 48% of Americans were in favor of stricter gun control laws, while 51% were opposed.

The country seems split. It’s hard to tell what will happen next.

My Thoughts

Not to lessen the seriousness of the topic, it reminds me of what Spiderman says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Living in a country where freedom is a fundamental right, it does come with great responsibility. Some people take that responsibility seriously and others take advantage and abuse it. Or some are just not mentally fit to handle the freedom. This example of freedom in this case is owning and carrying guns.

After traveling throughout several countries in the Middle East this past October, when I returned home to the United States I was asked so many times if I felt safe during my travels.

I would respond with the following:

“Funny you ask because while speaking with several students and their families in the Middle East, they asked me the same thing about being in the United States. Is it safe? Everyone carries guns.”

I usually don’t get a response, just staring.

I don’t blame them for staring. Heck, even the first time I was asked that question I was caught off guard. This shows me as a country we’ve become so desensitized to the gun violence. When an incident happens we are all upset, but once the hashtag gets old we move on until the next incident.

I’ve had to take training on what to do if there would be an “active shooter” in the office. When did this become the norm? Desensitized.

Circling back to the idea of freedom, it should be a fundamental right that everyone has a place to live, work, and learn where they feel safe. I think that was the original thinking about the second amendment. I’m sure when the second amendment was drafted our founding fathers wasn’t thinking Americans would use the guns in such violent manners against each other. It makes me wonder what they would think about what’s going on today.

Carrie2Carrie Circosta

Editor in Chief


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