President Barack Obama’s plan to tighten restrictions on gun sales brought praise from Democrats in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation and accusations of executive overreaching from Gov. Scott Walker.
The president, on Jan. 5, detailed his plans to curb gun violence in America and offered his reasoning for taking executive action — Congress’ inability or unwillingness to act.
Central to the president’s 10-point plan is new federal guidance on who is in the business of selling firearms and who must acquire a license to sell guns. The president wants to close a loophole that allows dealers and buyers to avoid background checks in the retailing of guns online and at shows and flea markets.
The president also wants federal agencies to research technologies to reduce accidental shootings, increase funding for mental health care, implement procedures to better track lost or stolen guns and hire more federal examiners to conduct background checks.
“This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country,” said Obama, who wiped away tears as he spoke at the White House on Jan. 5. But the executive actions could “save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses.”
Walker, who has signed legislation weakening Wisconsin’s gun restrictions, suggested the state likely will sue over Obama’s executive actions. The Republican governor said he asked the attorney general to review the president’s plan and accused Obama of “disregarding the constitutional principles of separation of powers and exceeding his authority as chief executive.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, said the courts or voters would undo the president’s actions. “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” Ryan said. “We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November.”
From Wisconsin’s Democratic leaders, there was praise for the presidential action.
State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison said executive action is “desperately needed to stem the tidal wave of gun violence and deaths.”
U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, welcomed “this practical and measured response to the ongoing inaction in the House and Senate that has compromised the safety of communities across the United States.”
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said Congress should build upon the president’s actions.
“Instead of Congress holding moments of silence on the House floor, we need moments of action to reduce the senseless gun violence that is rampant in our communities,” said Pocan, who supports the Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act, which would expand the background check program.
Lisa Neff is senior news editor for the Wisconsin Gazette.