What happened to the Justice Dept's gun control ideas after Gabby Giffords shooting?
The short answer to that question is nothing. After the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and others in front of a Tucson supermarket in early 2011, the Department of Justice offered a list of things the federal government could do to decrease the risk of guns falling into the hands of mentally troubled people and criminals.
Expanded background checks was one suggestion. But the proposals landed amid a political environment strongly against gun control. Even with the outpouring of public sympathy about the Giffords shootings, the Obama Administration was walking a political tightrope. Attorney General Eric Holder was on the hot seat over Fast and Furious and President Obama was heading into a re-election campaign virtually an underdog.
So the ideas went into the circular file. Time to retrieve them. As the New York Times points out in a story about the DOJ list, the ideas could reflect President Obama's current thinking and be a starting point for his pledge to curb gun violence.
Some things on the list could be done by executive order. President Obama is not shy about instituting solutions in the absence of Congressional action; last June Obama gave a reprieve to young people brought to this country illegally and in danger of being deported. Congress had been debating a more comprehensive solution, known as the Dream Act, for years.
The DOJ recommended that agencies that give out benefits, for example Social Security, include names in the F.B.I. background-check system of people deemed mentally incompetent to handle their finances, or federal employees or job applicants who fail a drug test.
Congress was also advised to increase almost tenfold grants to states that voluntarily submit their own law enforcement information to the federal background-checks database. The grant levels would rise from $11 million this year to about $100 million a year.
The DOJ also recommended Congress expand the list of gun purchases subject to background checks to include private sellers. Currently licensed firearms dealer are required to do background checks, but as federal law enforcement officials point out - correctly in my view - private gun sellers could easily access the system used by gun dealers.
Again, no federal attempt here to ban weapons or hinder the sale of them. I see these recommendations as a way to track weapons purchases. Interestingly, just two days before the Watertown, Conn. shootings, AG Holder accepted 56 recommendations from a task force on children exposed to violence. He vowed the proposals would not be shelved.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
Postman On Politics