Dem proposes exec action to curb gun violence

Dem proposes exec action to curb gun violence
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Rep. Alcee Hastings, a 12-term Florida Democrat, is pressing President Obama to use his executive pen in an effort to stem gun violence.

In a Thursday letter to the president, Hastings laid out three reforms he thinks the administration can adopt unilaterally as "good starting points" toward the common goal of keeping guns from the hands of violent people.

Hastings emphasized that congressional action is the preferable route, but in the face of a Republican-led Congress that's refused to consider the issue, he's urging Obama to act on his own.

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"As frustrating and real as congressional and special interest roadblocks are to our common endeavor to enact sensible gun reform, we must not let this reality deter us from working to protect the American people from the epidemic of gun violence that has held our communities hostage for so many decades," Hastings, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote.

The call arrives as Democrats in both chambers are renewing past efforts to adopt tougher gun laws in the wake of this month's mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Ore.

Obama was also quick to enter the discussion following the tragedy, urging voters "to think about how they can get our government to change these laws."

But, Congress aside, he's also "challenged his staff to go back and scrub all of our options" for unilateral action, in the words of Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president. And the White House confirmed last week that it's weighing a regulatory change to mandate background checks by some unlicensed gun sellers who are currently exempt from that requirement.

Hastings agrees that the law governing those “engaged in the business” of selling guns needs to be revisited. He also suggests Obama has the power to expand the definition of firearms to include "unfinished receivers," unregulated gun components that are sold separately and allow almost anyone to piece together homemade firearms that are effectively untraceable.

Lastly, Hastings wants Obama to strengthen the federal ban on gun ownership by domestic abusers. He says ill-defined legal language has created loopholes allowing some convicted of those crimes to skirt the prohibition.

"While these proposals are not the only needed reforms to our nation’s gun laws, and no single measure has the ability to completely alleviate the epidemic of gun violence in our nation, these common sense measures are important first steps that can be taken immediately to help save lives," Hastings wrote.

Those moves would be hotly contested by Republicans and gun lobbyists, who contend that tougher gun laws would only encroach on the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners while doing nothing to rein in violence by criminals who won't adhere to the law in any event.

Democrats and other gun reformers counter that there are ways to ensure gun rights aren't infringed while also making it tougher for violent people to access them. Hastings is among those voices.

"Given the intensity of today’s gun violence epidemic," he said, "I believe that it must be addressed as fully and quickly as possible.”