Gun violence spurs differing national and state actions
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 01:01
Gun violence in recent months has prompted controversial action by the Obama administration, while Texas officials have filed legislation in favor of gun rights in the early weeks of the 83rd Texas Legislative session.
At least three people were injured in a shooting at Lone Star College near Houston on Tuesday. One month prior, 26 were people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, Mass. Five months before that, 12 people were killed and 58 injured in the Aurora theater shooting. And in August, three people were killed in College Station in the shooting on Fidelity Street.
With the increase in gun violence brought to public light, the Obama administration sought a plan of action on gun control.
“This will not happen unless the American people demand it,” Obama said in a press conference Jan. 16. “If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, if hunters, sportsmen, if responsible gun owners — if Americans of every background stand up and say ‘Enough. We suffered too much pain and care too much about our children to allow this to continue.’ Then change will come. That’s what it’s going to take.”
The Obama administration has taken action to change U.S. gun policies by proposing 23 executive actions — three of those being presidential memoranda.
Executive actions, not to be confused with executive orders, are any actions taken by the president that do not modify the law.
These 23 executive actions touch on several issues — all related to firearms and violent crime — but focus on background checks, mental-health regulations and reiterate gun safety and actions to reduce gun violence in the U.S.
Three of the actions proposed called for presidential memoranda. According to a 1999 Congressional Research Service report, presidential memoranda are types of orders issued by the president that do not have an established process for issuance or publication. They only differ from executive orders in that executive orders must be published in the Federal Register whereas presidential memoranda are published only if the president determines they have “general applicability and legal effect,” as written in Title 44 of the United States Code section 1505.
The three presidential memoranda called for by Obama require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system, require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations and direct the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
Trickling down from the federal government sit the 181 members of the Texas Legislature.
As the 83rd Texas Legislative session hits its two week mark, at least 20 bills have been filed and proposed in regards to gun control by Texas lawmakers. These bills mostly focus on concealed handgun permits, concealed carry at public schools and one that involves Texas A&M: permitting the carrying of concealed weapons indoors at college campuses.
Senate Bill 182, filed by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would prevent public colleges and universities from imposing bans on students, faculty and staff — who hold concealed carry licenses — from carrying on campus.
Texas A&M Student Senate heavily debated and eventually overturned a veto by Student Body President John Claybrook, passing the Texas A&M Personal Protection Bill to carry concealed handguns indoors on campus. The bill will be presented to the Texas Legislature during this session.
Scott Bowen, senior chemical engineering major and speaker of Student Senate said the bill is necessary for the University and that it is logical for the Texas Legislature to approve a concealed carry bill.
“[Senate] feels that it would make the University safer and give people the security that they can protect themselves on campus,” Bowen said. “We have seen that gun-free zones are the biggest targets for mass shooting events and more susceptible to crime, as well.”
A shooting at Lone Star College near Houston left three people injured Tuesday and is expected to be an addition to the already heated debates over gun rights. Bowen re-emphasized the importance of the campus carry bill, saying the shooting in Houston reaffirmed the bill’s purpose.
Another large topic surrounding the issue of gun control is the use of background checks for potential gun buyers. Under federal law, background checks are only required for guns sold by licensed firearm dealers, whose sales make up an estimated 60 percent of U.S. gun sales, meaning private sellers are not required to run background checks.
“If you want to buy a gun … you should at least have to show you are not a felon or somebody legally prohibited from buying one,” President Obama said. “This is common sense.”
Obama said an overwhelming majority of Americans agreed with the need for universal background checks, citing a July 2012 poll in which 74 percent of National Rifle Association members agreed with “requiring a criminal background check of anyone purchasing a gun.”
Texas law regarding background checks for gun buyers, complies with federal law. The gray area lies within the lines of private sectors selling guns, such as in gun shows, putting politicians’ and citizens’ opinions on opposite sides of the spectrum.
Barry Burdett, Class of 1990 and owner of the Burdett & Son Outdoor Adventure Shop in College Station, said he thinks background checks for everyone would be a good idea, including those of private sectors.