US President Barack Obama [official website] signed 23 executive actions Wednesday and called on Congress to pass stricter gun-control laws. Most of the executive actions are intended to strengthen existing gun laws during what the president called an "epidemic of violence," while the other orders address issues of mental health and school safety. Obama urged Congress [remarks] to act to "make a real and lasting difference," calling on lawmakers to "require a universal background check for anyone trying to buy a gun." Additionally, Obama urged Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and to restrict ammunition magazines to no more than 10 rounds. "This time we must do something to protect our communities and our kids," the president said, referring to December's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut [WSJ backgrounder]. "This is how we will be judged."
The 23 executive actions included a memorandum requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system, a memorandum requiring federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations, and a memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence [text]. Before signing, Obama declared that the directives are intended to benefit "all the Americans who are counting on us to keep them safe from harm."
This story is the latest development in the Second Amendment and gun control debate [JURIST comment] in the US. Earlier this week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation intended to impose tighter restrictions [JURIST report] on gun and ammunition sales. In December the National Rifle Association (NRA) restated its objection [JURIST report] to reinvigorated calls for an assault weapons ban following the Newtown shooting. In July Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that his state would appeal [JURIST report] the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] ruling that struck down a Florida law that barred doctors from discussing the dangers of gun ownership with patients. In July 2010 the Chicago City Council unanimously approved a new gun control law that bans gun shops in the city and prohibits gun owners from stepping outside their homes, including porches and garages, with a handgun. Shortly thereafter a group of Chicago citizens, supported by both the NRA and the National Association of Firearm Retailers, filed suit against the city [JURIST report] claiming the new ordinance infringes on their constitutional rights. In June 2010 the US Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago [opinion; JURIST report] that the Second Amendment applies to states and municipalities as well as the federal government, thereby overturning Chicago's ban on handguns and raising considerable uncertainty about what amount of regulations of firearms was permissible.