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July 24, 2014, 1:20 pm

Local advocates applaud gun control proposal

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden unveiled his administration’s gun law reform proposals on Wednesday, a list of 23 Executive Orders that will face the sharply divided House of Representatives and United States Senate and has drawn visceral criticism from those Americans who see any hint of new gun laws as a threat to their Second Amendment rights.

The 23 Executive Orders include universal background checks on all firearm purchasers, issuing a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations and improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

“I believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. And yet, that doesn’t mean any of this is going to be easy to enact or implement.  If it were, we’d already have universal background checks.  The ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines never would have been allowed to expire,” the president said during a White House press conference on Wednesday. “This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever.”

The National Rifle Association, whose leadership was invited to participate in the discussions on the Obama administration’s proposals, issued a statement that said ultimately only law-abiding gun owners would be affected by sweeping changes in the nation’s gun laws.

“Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority. The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law. We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America's most valuable asset — our children.

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

Republican Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas said Obama’s actions were an attack on the Constitution and a violation of his presidential oath of office.

“I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment,” Stockman said in a Tuesday press release. “The president’s actions are an existential threat to this nation. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is what has kept this nation free and secure for over 200 years. The very purpose of the Second Amendment is to stop the government from disallowing people the means to defend themselves against tyranny. Any proposal to abuse executive power and infringe upon gun rights must be repelled with the stiffest legislative force possible.”

Support for the president’s action came from gun control advocates, community leaders and elected officials from across the country. Mayor Michael Nutter, who has been pushing for stricter gun control in Pennsylvania, said Obama’s plan would help reduce gun violence on the streets of America’s cities.

“Today President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled a comprehensive set of concrete proposals that will help us reduce the gun violence that occurs every day in our cities and to prevent mass shootings like the one that occurred just over one month ago in Newtown, Connecticut,” Nutter said. “We called on the President to exercise his powers through Executive Order and on Congress to introduce and pass legislation to make reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations.  Specifically, we called for universal background checks, a ban on both assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and strengthening the penalties for straw purchases of guns. Clearly the President listened to our call.”

Democratic Congressman Bob Brady said he supported the president’s decision.

“How much more bloodshed are we willing to tolerate? There is no need for assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips to be a part of the American civilian stockpile,” said Brady in a press release. “I wholeheartedly support a ban on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition clips and I also support universal background checks for all those lining up to buy weapons of what should be termed weapons of mass destruction.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, another supporter of the Obama Administration’s proposals, said he was not only pleased but it was long overdue for the federal government to begin addressing the issue of gun violence.

“I think the president laid out a very comprehensive and serious plan to begin dealing with this,” Fattah said. “I am in full support and it’s high time the federal government did something about the gun violence. I also think these proposals are going to have an impact on the deadly violence we see displayed on the streets of our cities as we go after illegal guns and have universal background checks.”

Bilal Qayyum, executive director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee also said he applauded Obama for taking this huge step forward in reforming the nation’s gun control laws. When asked if the proposals would have an impact on the deadly violence on the streets, he said they would in the long term.

“I’m excited that the president has done this,” Qayyum said. “I saw a poll this morning that showed 80 percent of Americans support stricter gun control laws which indicates that rural America is coming together with urban America on this. I’m glad he came out on this the way he did – now will it get past the Senate and the House of Representatives is another story. I think that even if the universal background checks are approved it will have a long term affect on the violence we see on the streets. The reality is there are too many illegal firearms already on the streets already but hey - every step forward on this helps. The biggest challenge is how do we get some people to begin to value life; to value their own and someone else’s, to see that they do have worth. That’s the challenge.”