The Edmond Sun

January 16, 2013

Oklahomans react to Obama gun control proposals

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — U.S. Rep. James Lankford reacted to the president’s gun control proposals, applauding the emphasis on school safety while saying state governments are best equipped to deal with local gun safety issues.

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled an aggressive gun control agenda that includes requiring background checks for all gun sales and passing a new, stronger ban on assault weapons.

Obama said his proposals will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and they will give law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community tools they need to help reduce gun violence and protect children. He cited the spate of recent shootings.

“This is our first task as a society,” the president said. “This is how we will be judged. And their voices should compel us to change.”

Obama affirmed his belief that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms, but said he believes all Americans have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to ensure guns are used safely.

Groups supporting the proposals include the PTA. In a statement, National PTA president Betsy Landers applauded the Obama administration’s “robust plan,” saying the organization agrees that the nation needs to offer safety training and comprehensive mental health services. The PTA supports universal background checks for gun sales and the assault weapons ban, but wants schools to be completely gun-free.

In the National Rifle Association’s response, the organization stated that Congress needs to find a bipartisan basis for real solutions to protect children. Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis facing the nation, the NRA stated.

“Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy,” the NRA stated.

Lankford, R-Edmond, said the recent rise in mass shootings is not a product of gun ownership but a cultural shift that has occurred in the country, a trend that requires serious evaluation.

“Any proposals to address this shift must work to solve the problem, not just force Congress to ‘do something,’” Lankford said.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, said Obama should take steps to strengthen mental health databases and reporting to the federal background check system to ensure guns do not end up with criminals or persons who are a threat to themselves or others.

“Still, states are primarily responsible for enacting measures to improve reporting to the (background check) system,” Coburn said.

Lankford, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he supports efforts to reduce bullying and violence in public schools through creative local solutions. He encouraged responsible adults to get involved in the health and safety of the nation’s children.

Obama’s efforts to begin to implement some of the Oversight Committee’s recommendations to prevent gun trafficking in America will bolster local community safety initiatives for children and families, Lankford said.

Lankford said New York’s recent decision to enact new gun controls on its citizens to meet a unique regional opinion does not force citizens of other states to live under a federal one-size-fits-all model.

“As a staunch Second Amendment advocate, I remain committed to the principle that any federal proposals must be constitutionally consistent and work to solve the societal problems we face,” he said.

Regarding the legislative process, Lankford said since Obama selected Vice President Joe Biden, the de facto Senate leader, to lead his gun violence task force, he assumes the Senate will immediately take up the proposals.

Coburn said he looks forward to debating these issues on the floor of the Senate, and encouraged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, to schedule a full and open debate.

“Members of Congress and the American people have a right to know where members stand on these key policies,” Coburn said. “If members can’t defend their positions, they don’t deserve to be here.”

Coburn said the fact that almost every public mass shooting tragedy occurs in a place where guns are prohibited shows that restricting Second Amendment rights tends to disarm everyone but the assailant. He said with rights come responsibilities, and gun owners must do what they can to prevent guns and ammunition from falling into the wrong hands.

Oklahoma State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, said his concerns include infringement on states’ rights and the Second Amendment. He said at a time when the national debt keeps rising he is concerned about the price tag for the proposals.

The president signed a total of 23 executive orders, action that does not require congressional approval. Obama’s proposals, which according to various reports would cost about $500 million, include:

• Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales;

• Taking four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system;

• Reinstating and strengthening the assault weapons ban;

• Restoring the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines;

• Protecting police officers by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets;

• Giving law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime;

• Making our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates and better emergency response plans;

• Helping ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need;

• Ensuring health insurance plans cover mental health benefits; and

• Ending the freeze on gun violence research.

Lankford said he will reserve judgment on any proposed legislation until he is able to review the Senate-passed versions of the president’s proposals. | 341-2121, ext. 108