Our nation has suffered too much at the hands of dangerous people who use guns to commit horrific acts of violence. As President Obama said following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, “We won’t be able to stop every violent act, but if there is even one thing that we can do to prevent any of these events, we have a deep obligation, all of us, to try.”

Most gun owners are responsible and law-abiding, and they use their guns safely. The President strongly believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. But to better protect our children and our communities from tragic mass shootings like those in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Tucson, there are common-sense steps we can take right now.

While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love.

Why Now

Gunfire was probably the last thing U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her constituents expected to hear during their Saturday morning town hall meeting in a Tucson grocery store parking lot. But by the time the last shot rang out on January 8, 2011, six lay dead or dying and thirteen more were injured. Rep. Giffords, the gunman's target, was shot in the head. She survived, but faced a long and difficult journey to recovery. Among those who lost their lives were a nine-year-old girl, a federal judge, and one of Giffords’ staffers.


President Obama speaks at a memorial service for in Tucson, Arizona. January 12, 2011

Four days later, President Obama spoke at a memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims, urging Americans to engage in a national conversation about the causes of this type of tragedy.

“We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of such violence in the future.”

Just after midnight on July 20, 2012, a man walked into a packed movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire. He killed twelve people and wounded another 58.

Days after the shooting there, President Obama traveled to Aurora to speak with survivors and meet with family members and loved ones of each of the victims. He heard from local leaders about the community’s resilience in the face of such shocking violence – violence that reminded the nation it could have been any of us in that theater, or any of us mourning the loss of a friend or family member.

President Obama visits with survivors of the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. July 22, 2012

President Obama also reminded us that even in the darkest of days, the extraordinary courage and strength of the American people shines through. He told the remarkable story of two young women he met who survived the shooting. After Allie was shot in the neck, her best friend Stephanie stayed beside her and kept pressure on the wound, even as bullets whizzed overhead. When they stopped, Stephanie helped carry Allie outside to the safety of a waiting ambulance, two parking lots away.

But just a few weeks later, another American community faced the unimaginable grief that cities like Tucson and Aurora knew too well. In Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a shooting in a Sikh temple left six people dead and four more wounded.

Despite witnessing these tragedies again and again and again, nothing could have steeled the nation for what would happen in Newtown, Connecticut.

On December 14, 2012, the day had just begun at Sandy Hook Elementary when a man broke into the school and started shooting. Within minutes, twenty of Sandy Hook’s first graders – 6 and 7 year olds – were killed in their classrooms. The school’s principal and psychologist were among the six staff members who died trying to protect the children in their care.

That afternoon, the President spoke emotionally about the day’s events from the White House. At a prayer vigil in Newtown two days later, President Obama said we couldn’t tolerate this kind of tragedy anymore. The time had come to take meaningful action to reduce gun violence in America.


President Obama speaks about the Newtown shooting. December 14, 2012

“If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.”

Working Together

Five days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden would lead an effort to develop a set of concrete policy proposals for reducing gun violence, due no later than January.

“This is not some Washington commission. This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now.”

Keeping with President Obama’s commitment to engage the American people in the process, the Vice President solicited input from citizens and organizations with a wide range of concerns, perspectives, and opinions while preparing his recommendations. From victims’ advocates to educators, elected leaders to sports and wildlife conservationists, he spoke with many groups about their ideas on curbing gun violence in the United States.

play Colin Goddard, Survivor of the Virginia Tech Shooting

Goddard, then a college senior, was shot four times in a classroom at Virginia Tech. A single gunman killed 32 people at the school and wounded Goddard and 16 others in April 2007. Today, he is a gun violence prevention advocate.

play Annette Nance-Holt, Parent of Blair Nance-Holt, who was shot in gang-related crossfire In May 2007

Nance-Holt’s 16-year-old son, Blair, was killed riding a bus on his way to help out at his grandparents’ store in Roseland, Illinois.

play Hildy Saizow, President, Arizonans for Gun Safety

Saizow directs Arizona’s Community Outreach for Project Safe Neighborhoods. She has worked as a criminologist, public policy analyst, community planner, and is working to develop and implement community crime prevention programs.

In addition to the Vice President’s meetings and discussions here in Washington, people from around the country joined the conversation about preventing gun violence by signing We the People petitions on the White House web site. As part of the official response to those petitions, President Obama recorded a special message for the more than 350,000 people who signed them, explaining that his efforts would only be successful with the continued help of Americans who stand up and speak out.

“That is how change happens. Because of committed Americans who work to make it happen. Because of you. You have started something and now I am asking you to keep at it. I am asking for your help to make a real, meaningful difference in the lives of our communities and our country.”

To keep the conversation going, Bruce Reed, the Vice President’s chief of staff, invited petition signers to join him on a conference call about the ongoing work at the White House. As domestic policy advisor in the Clinton White House, Reed worked closely with then-Senator Joe Biden to pass the 1994 Crime Bill that helped law enforcement bring down the rate of violent crime in America, and is deeply involved in developing the latest set of proposals.

The President's Plan to Reduce Gun Violence

On January 15, 2013, Vice President Biden delivered his policy proposals to President Obama. On Januray 16, 2013, the President put forward a specific plan to protect out children and communities by reducing gun violence. The plan combines executive actions and calls for legislative action that would help keep guns out of the wrong hands, ban assault and high-capacity magazines, make our schools safer, and increase access to mental health services.

  • Require background checks for all gun sales
  • The single most important thing we can do to prevent gun violence and mass shootings is to make sure those who would commit acts of violence cannot get access to guns. Right now, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks on those buying guns, but studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement. A national survey of inmates found that only 12 percent of those who used a handgun in a crime acquired it from a retail store or pawn shop, where a background check should have been run.

    Congress should pass legislation that goes beyond closing the “gun show loophole” to require background checks for all firearm sales, with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes.
    #NowIsTheTime to require background checks for all gun sales: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Strengthen the background check system for gun sales
  • The background check system is highly efficient and effective; during its 14 years in existence, the system has helped keep more than 1.5 million guns out of the wrong hands. But we must do a better job ensuring the background check system has access to complete data about potentially dangerous individuals.

    For example, although the number of mental health records available to the system has increased by 800 percent since 2004, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that there are still 17 states that have made fewer than 10 mental health records available to the background check system. We need to make sure states and federal agencies are making available reliable information on those prohibited from having guns to the background check system.
    #NowIsTheTime to strengthen the background check system for gun sales: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Pass a new, stronger ban on assault weapons
  • The shooters in Aurora and Newtown used the type of semiautomatic rifles that were the target of the assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. That ban was an important step, but manufacturers were able to circumvent the prohibition with cosmetic modifications to their weapons. Congress must reinstate and strengthen the prohibition on assault weapons.
    #NowIsTheTime to pass a new, stronger ban on assault weapons: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
  • The case for prohibiting high-capacity magazines has been proven over and over; the shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown all used magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which would have been prohibited under the 1994 law. These magazines enable any semiautomatic weapon to be used as an instrument of mass violence, yet they are once again legal and now come standard with many handguns and rifles. Congress needs to reinstate the prohibition on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
    #NowIsTheTime to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Finish the job of getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets
  • It is already illegal to manufacture and import armor-piercing ammunition except for military or law enforcement use. But it is generally still not illegal to possess or transfer this dangerous ammunition. Congress should finish the job of protecting law enforcement and the public by banning the possession of armor-piercing ammunition by, and its transfer to, anyone other than the military and law enforcement.
    #NowIsTheTime to finish getting armor piercing bullets off the streets: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime
  • In order to prevent and respond to gun violence, we must give law enforcement every tool they need to keep us safe. That includes passing stronger laws to stop those who would put guns into the hands of criminals, keeping 15,000 cops on the street, and eliminating restrictions that keep federal law enforcement from doing its job.
    #NowIsTheTime to give law enforcement the tools they need to prevent and prosecute gun crime: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • End the freeze on gun violence research
  • There are approximately 30,000 firearm-related homicides and suicides a year, a number large enough to make clear this is a public health crisis. But for years, the Centers for Disease Control and other scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” and some members of Congress have claimed this prohibition also bans the CDC from conducting any research on the causes of gun violence. However, research on gun violence is not advocacy. The President is directing the CDC and other research agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence, and the CDC is announcing that they will begin this research.
    #NowIsTheTime to end the freeze on gun violence research: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Make our schools safer with new resource officers and counselors, better emergency response plans, and more nurturing school climates
  • The Administration is calling on Congress to help schools hire up to 1,000 more school resource officers, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors, as well as make other investments in school safety. We also need to make sure every school has a comprehensive emergency management plan so they are prepared to respond to situations like mass shootings. In addition, the Administration is proposing to help 8,000 schools put in place proven strategies to prevent violence and improve school climate by reducing bullying, drug abuse, violence, and other problem behaviors.
    #NowIsTheTime to make our schools safer: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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  • Ensure quality coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people
  • Though the vast majority of Americans with a mental illness are not violent, we need to do more to identify mental health issues early and help individuals get the treatment they need before dangerous situations develop. As President Obama has said, “We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care as easy as access to a gun.” The Administration is proposing steps to identify mental health issues early and help individuals get the treatment they need before these dangerous situations develop.
    #NowIsTheTime to ensure quality coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people: Wh.gov/now-is-the-time
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“Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

Thank you for signing on in support of the President’s plan to reduce gun violence. Now, share this page with others, because if this effort is going to succeed, it’s going to take all of us, working together to call for polices that protect our kids and communities.

If this effort to reduce gun violence is to succeed, it’s going to require all of us coming together and calling for a safer country. Sign on to show your support for the President’s plan to protect our kids and communities, then share this page with others.

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