It's Wednesday and at 11:45 this morning, President Obama will unveil new plans for gun control through executive order while surrounded by children. He's expected to call on Congress to ban semi-automatic "assault" rifles and high capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. He'll also ask for universal background checks. Up to this point, Obama has been vague about what exactly his executive orders will include, but we'll find out today.
According to a lobbyist briefed Tuesday, Obama will present a three-part plan focused on gun violence, education and mental health. He'll call for:
— A focus on universal background checks. Right now some 40 percent of gun sales take place without background checks, including by private sellers at gun shows or over the Internet, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
— A ban on assault weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds or fewer.
— A federal statute to stop "straw man" purchases of guns and crack down on trafficking rings.
— More anti-bullying efforts; more training for teachers, counselors and principals; and funding for schools for more counselors and resource officers.
Obama also will order federal agencies to conduct more research on gun use and crimes, the lobbyist said, something Republican congressional majorities have limited through language in budget bills.
On mental health, Obama will focus on more availability of mental health services, training more school counselors and mental health professionals, and mental health first aid training for first responders, according to the lobbyist, who was not authorized to discuss the plan publicly before the president's announcement and requested anonymity.
The president's framework is based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, who led a wide-ranging task force on gun violence. The vice president's proposals included 19 steps that could be achieved through executive action.
Obama also may order the Justice Department to crack down on people who lie on gun-sale 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.
As Obama gets ready to give the Department of Justice more power, it's important that under his leadership and the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder prosecutions of illegal gun sales and criminals have dropped by 40 percent.
Despite his calls for greater gun control, including a new assault weapons ban that extends to handguns, President Obama's administration has turned away from enforcing gun laws, cutting weapons prosecutions some 40 percent since a high of about 11,000 under former President Bush.
"If you are not going to enforce the laws on the books, then don't start talking about a whole new wave of new laws," said a gun rights advocate.
Figures collected by Syracuse University's TRAC project, the authority on prosecutions from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, shows that the administration has reduced the focus on gun crimes and instead steered prosecutors and investigators to drug crimes.
Gun prosecutions peaked at 10,937 under Bush in 2004. A current TRAC report shows that the Obama administration is prosecuting about 6,000 weapons cases.
Stay tuned to Townhall for full coverage of Obama's gun control announcement.