Members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, the governor, and state lawmakers have reacted as President Barack Obama’s administration unveiled a series of executive actions aimed at reducing gun violence. The package includes 10 separate provisions. Perhaps the most controversial provision is a requirement that gun sellers — including those making sales on the Internet and at gun shows — to be licensed, and to conduct background checks on potential buyers.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage, but they can’t hold America hostage. We can’t accept this carnage in our communities,” Obama said.
The president’s action drew a rebuke from Wisconsin Republican, House Speaker Paul Ryan, in a statement released by his office.
“From day one, the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding. He knows full well that the law already says that people who make their living selling firearms must be licensed, regardless of venue. Still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.
“No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment. 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.
“We know that the president wants to spend this year offering distractions from his failed record. We will not allow this strategy to take us off course from giving the American people a clear choice with a bold policy agenda.”
The executive order drew the support of U.S. Representative Gwen Moore. The Democrat represents the city of Milwaukee, where guns were the weapons of choice in a majority of the 145 homicides recorded in 2015.
“After years of political obstacles and partisan gridlock on the part of congressional Republicans, President Barack Obama is moving forward with a series of sensible executive actions aimed at curbing our nation’s gun violence epidemic. I enthusiastically welcome 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.
“I applaud the president for taking steps within his executive authority to stand against the powerful gun lobby and the right-wing ideologues they support. My House colleagues and I have worked to comprehensively address the mass violence that has plagued our country through the legislative process, but unfortunately, groups like the National Rifle Association have poured millions of dollars into blocking any such efforts. Simply put, Congress has ducked this critical issue for far too long. The time for action is upon us.
“Republicans will undoubtedly paint these reasonable actions as an attack against the Second Amendment, but nothing could be farther from the truth. On the contrary, this move by President Obama will help defend the rights of law abiding gun owners and responsible gun dealers from those who abuse and exploit our current system. Through common-sense measures like background checks, increased funding for more ATF agents, and strengthened domestic violence outreach efforts, we can make great strides in making our country a safer place to live and thrive. In addition to these executive actions, I call on representatives from both parties to enact meaningful reform that will prevent guns from ending up in dangerous hands.”
Other members of Congress took to social media. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, Tweeted: Many gun owners like me strongly support the 2nd amendment and taking action to #StopGunViolence to make our communities safer.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker questioned the constitutionality of the president’s decision to move on guns without congressional action. “I think the biggest problem that people have, regardless of the subject matter, is he’s abusing his power,” Walker said. “I and 24 other governors took him to court. We’ve won in court multiple times. We’re going to take him to court if he exceeds his powers, which he’s done multiple times in the past.”
State Representative Mandela Barnes also released a statement in support of the president:
“As elected officials, we have a duty to keep our communities as safe and secure as possible from gun violence. However, lives continue to be lost to violent shootings at a shockingly record pace, and elected officials across our state and our nation continue to turn a blind eye to this tragic and growing epidemic.
“Last year, I led a group of 27 Wisconsin state legislators in calling on the White House to investigate and pursue all possible options under executive authority to reduce gun violence. I applaud President Obama for not only hearing our voices – but those across the nation who have been impacted by the scourge of gun violence – by deciding to use his executive powers to shrink deadly loopholes and protect our communities.
Obama also wants to devote $500 million more in federal funding to treat mental illness, action that could require congressional approval. He’d also require that firearms lost in transit between a manufacturer and a seller be reported to federal authorities.
At the president’s direction, the FBI will begin hiring more than 230 additional examiners and other personnel to help process new background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has established a new investigation center to keep track of illegal gun trafficking online. ATF will devote $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.