Biden to tout administration success on gun violence

Biden to tout administration success on gun violence
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POSTED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 11:30am

UPDATED: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - 11:34am

Weeks after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, last December, President Barack Obama issued 23 directives aimed at curbing the threat of gun violence.

At an event on Tuesday in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden will unveil a progress report that the administration says shows it is on its way to meeting nearly all of the goals from that effort.

The report shows that the administration has "completed or made significant progress" on 21 of the 23 Executive Actions signed by Obama in January.

The mostly administrative steps span several federal agencies and the majority require no approval from Congress, where legislation backed by Obama that proposed stricter gun limits stalled this spring.

For instance, the report touts action taken by the Health and Human Services Department to begin the process of reviewing healthcare privacy laws for any barriers preventing from reporting information about people with health problems that might prohibit them from purchasing guns.

The Justice Department proposed a new rule that would allow law enforcement to run full federal background checks on the owners of guns seized as part of an investigation.

Officers currently are required to return seized firearms, but they are prohibited from running background checks on owners.

In an effort to spur new research on the causes of gun violence, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council issued a report this month recommending the pressing research questions.

Obama is calling on Congress to provide $10 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct gun violence research, an area that has been stalled in recent years due to its political implications.

On a conference call previewing Biden's remarks, a senior administration official said the report represents "significant progress," but the administration continues to hold discussions with members of Congress in the hopes of getting legislation passed.

"These unilateral executive actions are in no way a replacement for concrete legislative action, which is why we're engaged in so many conversations with members of Congress, why we're engaged in trying to strengthen the political dynamics of the situation where we can actually have legislation that will tighten and strengthen background checks," the official said.

Of the two Executive Actions the administration has failed to follow through on, the report predicts one will be fulfilled by the end of the year while the other is held up by congressional inaction.

As part of implementing the healthcare law championed by Obama, the report says HHS will finalize regulations later this year detailing how certain existing group health plans must cover mental health benefits, fulfilling the president's directive.

The last unfinished action may be a bit more difficult.

On the same day he rolled out his plans to reduce gun violence, the president also announced his plans to nominate B. Todd Jones to serve as the permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"Congress needs to help, rather than hinder, law enforcement as it does its job," Obama said in January. "We should get tougher on people who buy guns with the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. And we should severely punish anybody who helps them do this. Since Congress hasn't confirmed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in six years, they should confirm Todd Jones, who will be -- who has been Acting, and I will be nominating for the post."

Five months after his nomination was announced, Jones sat down for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It has yet to vote on the nomination.

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