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Speier: Congress must act on guns
January 17, 2013, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

President Barack Obama's $500 million plan to curb gun violence in the United States will likely be bitterly fought in Congress but U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said it's time for the American people to demand more from their lawmakers.

The key components Obama wants Congress to solve are passing universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines such as the one used in the Newtown, Conn. school shooting recently.

But that is a political solution that likely will not work, said Brandon Combs, spokesman for the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees.

Some of the president's executive orders enacted yesterday related to gun control were expected, Combs said.

"Obama was very metered and pragmatic on how the executive orders were presented. The issue is how the orders are applied and enforced,” Combs said.

But putting the impetus on Congress to curb gun violence is a pure political move, Combs told the Daily Journal, and the president backed away from the major issues.

With the gun lobby's influence in Washington, D.C., especially that of the National Rifle Association, getting Republicans to sign off on Obama's proposals could be difficult but Speier has pledged to do everything in her power to achieve the president's proposals.

"I'm not going to be sucked into a defeatist philosophy. We have an obligation to act,” Speier told the Daily Journal yesterday.

She will also introduce legislation in the coming weeks to ban the import of assault weapons.

Speier serves as vice chair of the congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and met with Vice President Joe Biden for two hours Monday with 11 other House Democrats as the task force discussed comprehensive measures to prevent mass killings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School or the movie theater in Aurora, Colo. last year.

Those measures were presented to Obama Tuesday prior to his announcement yesterday to pledge $500 million toward curbing gun violence.

Speier is an outspoken advocate for a federal ban on assault weapons, full and complete background checks on all gun sales, including sales at gun shows, and strict limits on high capacity ammunition sales.

Speier first introduced assault weapons ban legislation in California 20 years ago.

Being shot five times herself at close range at the Jonestown massacre in 1978, Speier has been passionate to protect people against gun violence since.

But some of Obama's proposals might not meet the constitutional smell test, Combs said. Other proposals are overreaching, he added.

Some of the president's 23 executive orders yesterday included requiring 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.

The nation also needs to improve the recognition and treatment of individuals with mental illness, Speier said.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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