But with gun policy again in the news after the Isla Vista shooting, it's worth considering that Obama's legacy on gun control may ultimately be defined by the executive orders he issued in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn. And absent any concerted effort by Congress, the fear that encouraged a spike in gun sales after Obama's election and reelection may have all been for naught.
Indeed, the president said after last September's massacre at the Washington Navy Yard that voters should pressure Congress to initiate gun control legislation, since he had already "taken steps that are within my control" after Newtown. In an election year in which Republicans need to pick up only six seats to retake the Senate, the prospects for a push on guns may seem dim to even the most optimistic supporter of reform.
And with that, a list of all the actions Obama has taken on guns. You'll notice he hasn't done much to restrict access:
That time he signed a bill allowing concealed loaded firearms in national parks.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced an amendment in 2009 permitting concealed, loaded guns in national parks to a bill about credit cards, saying differences in state and federal laws inhibited gun owners from travel between state and federal lands.
And signed a bill allowing Amtrak passengers to store handguns in their checked baggage.
Advocates of the bill, also introduced in 2009, said it gave train riders rights comparable to those possessed by plane passengers. Amtrak had allowed firearms to be carried on trains before 9/11, so the bill represented a victory for gun rights activists.
After Newtown, Obama assembled a task force to address gun violence.
Obama charged Vice President Joe Biden in December 2012 with overseeing an administration-wide process to develop proposals for Congress to take up. He urged lawmakers to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, close loopholes that allow buyers to avoid background checks and restrict high-capacity ammunition clips.
Then unveiled proposals to combat gun violence…
Obama's legislative proposals, released in January 2013, touched upon not just access to firearms and ammunition but school safety and mental health care.
And issued 23 executive actions.
A high point for the the White House on gun control was when Obama announced a flurry of executive actions accompanying his legislative proposals. The actions included requiring federal agencies to hand over relevant data for a background check system, providing more training for responders in shooting situations and restarting research on gun violence.
Only to see Congress take up just one of those proposals... and quickly shoot it down.
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey's (R-Pa.) legislation on background checks fell short by five votes in April that year, even though nearly 90 percent of Americans favored strengthening such measures. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last month that he'd need more support from senators to revisit the bill.
But he did get to sign a renewal of an existing bill banning plastic firearms.
It appears that all Congress is capable of doing when it comes to gun control is authorizing an extension of a prohibition against guns that can avoid detection by metal detectors and X-ray machines. Republicans went along with renewing the ban in December, but resisted tightening the restrictions.
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