On Monday, the White House announced a slate of executive actions the president is taking to address gun violence in America.
Some people might say the measures “might not have stopped the last massacre or the one before that or the one before that, so why bother trying?” President Obama said Tuesday. “I reject that thinking. We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil. But maybe we can stop one act or violence, one act of evil.”
Despite presenting them in relatively modest terms, Obama’s directives — to reallocate resources, clarify rules and redouble existing efforts — could go a long way toward addressing issues that were at play in some of the high-profile mass shootings of the past decade, and a slew of other gun-related problems.
Of course, it’s impossible to say whether any particular tragedy could or would have been prevented if Obama’s rules had been in effect. But these examples do shed light on some of the loopholes in U.S. gun laws that Obama is seeking to fix.
1. The FBI will hire 230 additional personnel to process background checks, increasing its numbers in that arena by 50 percent. The agency is also partnering with the U.S. Digital Service to modernize its systems so it can process background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Why this matters: Two months before the 2015 shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, gunman Dylann Roof was arrested for possession of the drug Suboxone. That charge would have disqualified him from purchasing a gun if examiners from the FBI-run National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, had processed his application in time to catch it. Instead, the three-day waiting period imposed on firearms dealers in the U.S. expired without a decision, which meant that under federal law Roof was allowed to buy the .45-caliber Glock 41 he used to kill eight parishioners and the church’s pastor, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, during a Bible study session.
2. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will upgrade it systems and expand personnel, too. The ATF is budgeting $4 million to improve its ballistics database — to find links between crimes that take place in multiple jurisdictions — and will hire 200 new agents to enforce gun laws.