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If Obama Took 'Executive Action' On Guns, What Might He Do?

Posted: January 10, 2013

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Changes to gun laws require working with Congress. But the president might do such things as bolster the federal database on gun buyers and order stepped-up prosecution of felons and others barred from buying weapons.

Vice President Biden and President Obama at the White House on Dec. 19. Biden has been charged with drawing up

Vice President Biden and President Obama at the White House on Dec. 19. Biden has been charged with drawing up "concrete proposals" on how to reduce gun violence. Fang Zhe

After Vice President Biden said Wednesday that the Obama administration might take some executive actions on the issues of guns and gun-related violence, questions naturally arose:

What kinds of things was he talking about? What might the administration do that doesn't require Congressional action?

Our colleague Ari Shapiro is looking to answer those questions on All Things Considered later today (click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show). Meanwhile, here's some reporting from elsewhere:

-- Obama might "strengthen the database that the FBI uses to perform background checks on gun buyers. Many federal agencies that don't currently contribute to the database, such as the Social Security Administration, have access to mental competence information about prospective buyers, or details about failed drug tests and other issues that might prevent a sale to the wrong person. ... The president could also demand that the states share more information from their crime and mental-health databases." (The New York Times)

-- "It is unclear what specific executive orders Obama is contemplating, though one Democratic aide with insight into the talks said Obama could sidestep Congress and bolster federally funded mental-health programs." (The Hill)

-- "The coalition of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has called for Obama to consider several measures that they said could be implemented without congressional approval: Step up prosecution by the Justice Department of felons and others prohibited from buying weapons when they attempt to buy them. ... Require federal agencies to report records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check Systems. ... Appoint an ATF director. The federal agency charged with enforcing gun laws has gone without a confirmed director for six years." (USA Today)

The Times adds, by the way, that "most changes to the current system, which allows easy access to weapons with hugely destructive power, has to come through legislation."

After the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Biden was charged with reporting back this month with "concrete proposals" on reducing gun violence. Among the groups he's due to meet with today is the National Rifle Association.

Update at 12:35 p.m. ET. Biden Sees Recommendations Coming On Universal Background Checks And High-Capacity Magazines:

At the White House a short time ago, Biden said there's been broad agreement among the groups he's met with so far that some sort of sytem of "universal background checks" for gun purchasers needs to be created. Also, he said, there's been broad agreement for controls on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Based on past statements from NRA leaders, it's unlikely they are among those Biden is speaking about when he talks of agreement on those issues.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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