Two members of California’s national delegation aligned themselves on opposite sides of the gun control issue after President Barack Obama unveiled the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades Wednesday.
Obama called a press conference with the aim of pressing a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
A month after that horrific massacre, Obama also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that don’t require the backing of lawmakers. The president’s executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and directing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.
But the president, speaking at a White House ceremony, focused his attention on the divided Congress, saying only lawmakers could enact the most effective measures for preventing more mass shootings.
“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,” Obama said. “And Congress must act soon.”
The president vowed to use “whatever weight this office holds” to press lawmakers into action on his $500 million plan. He is also calling for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk.
If the opinions of two separate California delegates are any indication, observers can expect more division.
U.S. Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who represents Nevada County, called Obama’s proposal an affront to United States citizens’ basic freedoms and rights.
“Nothing in this proposal would have prevented the recent shootings or their severity,” LaMalfa said. “What this proposal will do is infringe directly upon the Second Amendment and strip lawful citizens of long-established rights. Restricting access to firearms and the rights of law abiding citizens will not change the tragedies of the past or prevent them in the future.”
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of two California representatives to the nation’s upper house, expressed enthusiastic support of Obama’s proposal.
“I have deep respect and admiration for President Obama and Vice President Biden for the comprehensive and common-sense reforms they outlined this morning,” Feinstein said in a statement emailed to The Union. “They spoke with conviction and compassion for the victims of gun violence in this country, and I applaud them for tackling this plague of violence with the urgency it deserves. The executive actions and proposals announced today will dramatically improve the background check system, protect law enforcement and resume gun violence research in this country.”
In a later statement, Feinstein revealed she, along with a coalition of Congress members, mayors, law enforcement officers and gun safety organizations, will call a press conference Jan. 24 to introduce new legislation that intends to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.
“I support the president’s call to reinstate the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines,” Feinsten said. “He was exactly right when he said, ‘Weapons designed for the theater of war have no place’ in our society. I couldn’t agree more. These weapons have one purpose: to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time possible.”
LaMalfa further questioned Obama’s tactics in using executive order to enact the 23 measures.
“I am very concerned that the president’s use of executive orders is not only legally questionable but contrary to the principles of representative government, which our nation was founded upon,” LaMalfa said. “I was sent to Washington not to strip rights away from the American people but to defend our basic freedoms and ensure that our government follows the Constitution.”
To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4239. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,. And Congress must act soon.”
— President Barack Obama