US President Barack Obama [official website] called Sunday for greater enforcement of gun laws [op-ed] in the wake of the January shootings in Arizona [JURIST report]. In an opinion piece published by the Arizona Daily Star, Obama called for the implementation of "sound and effective steps" aimed at minimizing gun violence. He outlined three steps designed to enhance the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) [FBI backgrounder], a database that provides information to gun sellers about potential buyers' eligibility to purchase firearms. Obama called for proper implementation of NICS and an incentive system to reward the states that provide the best information to the database. He also called for the system to be made "faster and nimbler ... provid[ing] an instant, accurate, comprehensive and consistent system for background checks." Addressing the often divisive nature of gun rights discussions in the US, Obama said that he has faith that Americans on both sides of the debate can recognize that "[m]ost gun-control advocates know that most gun owners are responsible citizens [and m]ost gun owners know that the word 'commonsense' isn't a code word for 'confiscation.' And none of us should be willing to remain passive in the face of violence or resigned to watching helplessly as another rampage unfolds on television."
Following the Arizona shooting, lawmakers have largely remained silent [AP report] on issues of firearms reform. This marks the first time Obama has directly addressed reform since the shooting, during which six people were killed and 13 were wounded, including US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) [official website]. Earlier this month, federal prosecutors filed a 49-count indictment [text, PDF; JURIST report] against the suspected gunman, Jared Lee Loughner. The new indictment carries more severe charges than the original indictment [text, PDF; JURIST report] filed in January, accounting for all victims of the attack and carrying more serious penalties. Prosecutors first filed charges against Loughner [JURIST report] in January. Loughner has pleaded not guilty.