Obama's Gun Control Proposals Draw Mixed Reaction From Local Politicians, Residents

By Erica Werner, Julie Pace, Doug Shimell and David Chang
|  Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013  |  Updated 5:51 PM EDT
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On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled to Congress a gun plan that would strengthen gun laws in the country. NBC10's Doug Shimell reports from Horsham, Pa. on the reaction from the president's proposals.

NBC10 Philadelphia - Doug Shimell

On Wednesday, President Obama unveiled to Congress a gun plan that would strengthen gun laws in the country. NBC10's Doug Shimell reports from Horsham, Pa. on the reaction from the president's proposals.

Several local politicians and residents are reacting to President Obama’s gun control proposals.

On Wednesday, the president unveiled the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades, 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.

A month after that horrific massacre — and a day after New York's governor signed into law the toughest gun control law in the nation and the first since Newtown — 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.

After Obama’s press conference, Mayor Nutter released the following statement:

Today President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled a comprehensive set of concrete proposals that will help us reduce the gun violence that occurs every day in our cities and to prevent mass shootings like the one that occurred just over one month ago in Newtown, Connecticut.
Just three days after the Newtown tragedy occurred, the mayors of our three largest cities and other Conference of Mayors leaders sent an open letter to the President and the Congress, which urged immediate action. We called on the President to exercise his powers through Executive Order and on Congress to introduce and pass legislation to make reasonable changes in our gun laws and regulations.  Specifically, we called for universal background checks, a ban on both assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and strengthening the penalties for straw purchases of guns.

Clearly the President listened to our call.  We applaud him for issuing executive actions to reduce gun violence.  And we applaud him for calling for critically needed legislation and urge Congress ‘to do the right thing’ and institute universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, and strengthening penalties for gun trafficking.

As mayors of major cities, many of us do all we can to reduce gun violence, but our efforts are too often thwarted by trafficking from other areas and states.   The President’s plan, which would institute background checks nationally and crack down on those who buy guns for the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals, will be an enormous help to us.”
 

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) released the following statement:

Now is the time for us to take action to end the senseless loss of life that occurs almost daily across our country due to gun violence.

I applaud President Obama and Vice President Biden for reaching out to the many factions in this debate and calling for meaningful action to reduce gun violence. I strongly support the President’s proposal announced today, which represents a comprehensive plan to keep guns out of the wrong hands, increase gun safety, and prevent future acts of gun violence.

While President Obama took executive action today to reduce gun violence, there is still more work to be done to ensure our communities, our children and our schools are safe. I pledge to do all I can to ensure that Congress takes action now, not only for those who tragically lost their lives in Newtown, but for all the victims of gun violence in this country.
 

U.S. Rep Rush Holt (NJ-12) released the following statement:

For decades, too many in Washington have stood inactive as our schoolchildren and moviegoers and worshippers and police officers and so many others have been gunned down.  This shameful, tragic inaction must end.

President Obama has acted quickly and intelligently to identify steps that he can take on his own to reduce gun violence.  But he is right to say that real progress will require Congress to act.

First and foremost, we must enact a permanent ban on military-style assault weapons.  Let’s be clear:  Congress must and will protect the right of law-abiding Americans to own firearms that are useful for sport or self-defense.  But semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines have no legitimate use whatsoever outside of police and military forces.  These military-style assault weapons are useful only to criminals who wish to commit mass murder, and they should be banned once and for all.

We must also make sensible investments in strengthening mental health care.  To be clear, the NRA lobbyists who claim that this step alone is sufficient to rein in gun violence are self-serving and wrong-headed.  Better access to mental health care will likely play only a modest role in preventing gun murders – but it could play a critical role in preventing gun suicides, which represent the majority of all gun deaths.  Moreover, better mental health care in America is an end worth pursuing in itself.

Finally, we must recognize the crucial role of law enforcement in preventing gun violence.  In particular, the President is right to emphasize the value of school resource officers – specially trained law enforcement officers who work in schools every day.  These resource officers do much more than just staff metal detectors or respond to violent crises.  They work within schools day in and day out to build trust between students and teachers, create a culture of nonviolence, and strengthen respect for the law.  We should invest in placing trained school resource officers in every school in America, and I plan to introduce legislation in the weeks ahead to help make that possible.

To hear the stories of the little children and the teachers murdered in Newtown makes you want to cry.  But even more than that, it should make us want to act.
 

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) released the following statement:

While I want to closely examine the executive and legislative proposals set forth by the President, they include some very positive and reasonable steps to address the problem.  The American people deserve a thoughtful effort to reach a comprehensive solution to address gun violence.  It is critical that this includes increased funding for local law enforcement programs like the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) Program, and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, as well as measures to address mental health.  I continue to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and believe in the right of citizens to own guns for their own protection as well as for hunting, recreation, and collection.   Nonetheless, after reflecting on the power of the weapon and the number of bullets that hit each child in Sandy Hook, the reinstatement of a ban on military-style weapons and high capacity magazines are two common-sense steps that I support.  Moving forward, my hope is that Republicans and Democrats will come together and act in response to this great tragedy.  I remain optimistic that the sense of urgency we all felt after Sandy Hook will not be diminished by time or any partisan battles.

Finally, the National Rifle Association released the following statement:

Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership.  Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority.

The NRA will continue to focus on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law.  We look forward to working with Congress on a bi-partisan basis to find real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.

Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation.  Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.
 

NBC10 also spoke to local residents to hear their reactions. Employees at Clayton's Hunting and Fishing Store in Horsham, Pa. stopped everything they were doing to watch the President's speech on Wednesday. They tell NBC10 they did not like the President's renewed ban on assault weapons and high round magazine clips.

"Everybody wants to reduce violence and crime," said Ed Hartzell, a rangemaster at Clayton's. "But by making law-abiding citizens criminals, we're not addressing problems."

"To tell someone that they can't have something that looks like this because it looks like this doesn't really seem fair," said Tom Clayton Jr. while pointing at a gun.

"I think they really have to lean in to the criminals and the mentally ill people," said Steve, a gun owner. "How does an autistic kid get his hands on guns?"

Sharon Clayton, one of the owners of the store, got choked up watching the children sit next to the President during his speech.

"I think it was appropriate that the children were there," said Clayton. "It was very sad to see the mother and father of the little girl that died there."

Residents who we talked to down the road from the gun shop believed that something had to be done in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.

"It really hit home with a lot of people," said Jamie Halligan of Ambler, Pa. "I think that he can't not do anything about it now."

"We can't send children into schools that are not safe," said Karen Brody of Huntingdon Valley, Pa. "Nobody needs an assault weapon."

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