New Gun Legislation Biproduct of President's Plan

Following the president's proposal, Rep. Jackie Speier said she will be introducing two bills to renew assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans and improve tracking of guns used in crimes

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez caught up with local congresswoman Jackie Speier, herself a high-profile victim of gun violence, for her reaction to President Barack Obama s new gun control proposals. (Published Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013)

    President Obama unveiled what he called "common-sense  measures" to reduce gun violence after Vice President Joe Biden delivered  recommendations earlier this week to prevent mass shootings like the Sandy  Hook Elementary School massacre last month.

     Obama highlighted several reforms from a list of 23  recommendations for Congress to OK spending a proposed $500 million on  efforts to quell gun violence.

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    "If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if  there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to  try," Obama said this morning.

      The recommendations were based on work headed by Biden and cabinet  members who met with 290 groups ranging from law enforcement agencies, public  health offices, marksmen, hunters, religious leaders, gun advocates, mayors,  governors, and county officials in the month since the Dec. 14 school  shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 first graders and six adults.

    Based on Biden's task force recommendations, Obama proposed  strengthening criminal background checks for all gun buyers.

    He cited 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a  background check, and called that dangerous and negligent.

    "It's not fair to responsible gun buyers or sellers," he said.

    The president also called for restoring a ban on all  military-style assault weapons and a 10-round limit for magazines.

    "Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place in a movie  theater," he said, referring to last July's Aurora, Colo., theater shooting  that killed 12.

    Obama asked for more severe punishment for gun crime and illegal  gun sales, bolstered by increased police presence on city streets.

    Additionally, he noted that the federal Bureau of Alcohol,  Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives needs a confirmed director after six years,  and said he would recommend that interim director Todd Jones be named to that  post.

    A 15-page report released from the White House late this morning  details other proposals including more gun and violence research initiatives,  more focus on mental health, and increased school safety measures. 

      Those on both sides of the gun control debate have responded to  the president's directive to Congress.

    U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, herself a  shooting survivor from the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana, sits on the  bipartisan Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, which she said  will come up with complementary recommendations for reducing gun violence  that she expects to be fully supported.

    "The horrific nature of the Sandy Hook shootings is painful for  all of us," she said Wednesday. "It's also important to realize we live  in an incredibly violent society."

    She said the most important aspects of Obama's plan and the  congressional recommendations that need to pass in Congress are mandatory  criminal background checks.

    Although a huge number of illegal guns and assault weapons are  already in circulation, she said measures are needed to stop the cycle.

    Following the president's proposal, Speier said she will be introducing  two bills to renew assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans and  improve tracking of guns used in crimes.

    She emphasized the importance of keeping tabs on guns and  expanding California's already existing gun registry.

    The congresswoman reflected on her own experience with gun  violence in the mass shooting where she was shot multiple times and U.S. Rep.  Ryan Leo was killed along with four others on a fact-finding mission for  suspected human rights violations by a cult.

    "I feel a personal obligation to do something, because I  survived," she said.

    U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, the chair of the  congressional task force, recognized the importance of executive action and  the next steps needed for reform.

    "Now it's time for Congress to step up and do what needs to be  done to save lives," he said in a statement this morning.

    The task force is developing a comprehensive set of policy  recommendations that will be released in early February.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein released a statement today commending what  she called Obama's comprehensive and commonsense plan, highlighting his  remarks about assault weapon reform.

    She announced that next week she will introduce legislation  banning assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition.

    "These weapons have one purpose: to kill the most people in the  shortest amount of time possible," she said in the statement.

    State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, noted in a  statement released this morning that Obama's plan would reduce gun violence  at the much-needed federal level.

    "California has tough gun laws but our ability to address gun  violence is undermined when one can bypass California rules by crossing state  lines. Federal action is needed to ensure the effectiveness of our state  laws," she said.

    Skinner last month introduced state legislation to reduce gun  ammunition sales.

    Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said he has worked  with local clergy and written to Obama about gun violence and that "we are on  the same page," on issues ranging from background checks to bans on assault  weapons.

    "Why do you need to be that armed up?" Brown said.

    Brown was quick to distinguish between the problem of urban  violence and mass shootings, noting that increased crime in many Bay Area  cities stem from socio-economic disparities and lack of opportunity for young  people.

    As for the nation, Brown said something has to be done on how we  view gun ownership and protecting ourselves -- at the expense of innocent  lives.

    "It's time that faith leaders take the lead," he said, "and take  out the political posturing."

    "Let's look at what's good for the people," Brown said.

    Scott Jackson, the chief instructor from the Burlingame-based Bay  Area Training Group, asserted that Obama is not dealing with gun crime  problem correctly.

    As an instructor, Jackson trains people how to properly use and  keep guns and said gun owners have to be responsible, especially keeping the  weapon locked up and registered.

    He said in the past weeks since the Sandy Hook shooting he's seen  his training session attendance quadruple from about 90 clients a month to  more than 350 in the past month.

    "We're making people safe shooters," he said.

    More information about Obama's plan to stop gun violence is  available at whitehouse.gov/now-is-the-time.