The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

January 15, 2013

Obama weighing executive action on guns

(Continued)

Officials said Obama and Biden met Monday afternoon to discuss the vice president's recommendations. Ahead of that meeting, Biden huddled with a dozen House Democrats who have formed their own gun violence task force and whose political muscle will be needed to push legislation through Congress.

Biden told those lawmakers that he and his staff had identified 19 steps Obama could take without help from Congress, according to Jenny Werwa, communications director to Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., one of those present. Biden didn't indicate which of those Obama would adopt.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., another lawmaker at the meeting, said one example is working to ensure better state reporting of mental health and other records that go into the federal background check database. But Scott said there are clear limits to what Obama can do without Congress' say-so.

"It wasn't anything remarkable, it was just administering present law better," Scott said. "You can't change the law through executive order."

Among other steps, advocacy groups have been pushing Obama to order the Justice Department to crack down on those who lie on background checks; only a tiny number are now prosecuted. Such a step has support from the National Rifle Association, which has consistently argued that existing laws must be enforced before new ones are considered.

Obama also could take steps ordering federal agencies to make more data on gun crimes available and conduct more research on the issue, something Republican congressional majorities have limited through language in budget bills, advocates said.

The president's proposals are also expected to include steps for improving school safety and mental health care, as well as recommendations for addressing violence in entertainment and video games.

"You'll have a combination of gun safety, mental health and general prevention," Scott said.

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