In his weekly address released Saturday, US President Barack Obama [official profile] urged [video] Congress to pass the gun control legislation currently awaiting their votes. Current bills include the Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act [S 374 materials], which would require background checks for all private gun sales; the School Safety Enhancements Act [S 1460], which would renew a grant to help schools improve their security programs; and the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013 [S 54], which would make buying a weapon for someone who is barred from owning one a federal crime and would increase penalties for offenders. The Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] has approved all of these measures, but the full Senate and the House must vote on them before they can be signed into law.
President Obama's plea for Congress to focus on gun control comes following the Newtown, Connecticut shooting [WSJ backgrounder] in December, which brought the gun control debate [JURIST archives] back to the forefront in the US. Earlier this month, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] spoke before Congress [JURIST report] urging passage of gun control measures, including universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines and military style assault weapons. In February, JURIST guest columnist Nicholas Johnson of the Fordham University School of Law discussed [JURIST op-ed] the constitutionality of an assault weapons ban, the likes of which was recently approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. An assault weapons ban, however, will not be part of gun control legislation the entire Senate will vote on [NY Times report] next month and will instead be offered as an amendment. In January, President Obama signed 23 executive orders [JURIST report] intended to strengthen existing gun laws and urged congress to take up gun control measures.