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Friday, January 18, 2013

Jan. 16 Updates on the Gun Violence Debate

The Lede is following the debate on gun violence in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., with reports from our correspondents and from around the Web. On Wednesday, President Obama announced a push for new laws to restrict the availability of guns and to embrace a series of executive actions that he can take without seeking congressional approval.

7:07 P.M. |Superintendent Wary of Using Armed Personnel

The schools superintendent from Newtown, Conn., called for a ban on military-style assault rifles when she spoke to lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday

Speaking to a Democratic Congressional panel, Superintendent Janet Robinson, whose district includes Sandy Hook Elementary School, also disputed a claim by the National Rifle Association that use of armed school personnel is the best safeguard against mass violence, The Danbury News Times reports.

“I come from a military family,” she said at the hearing, in response to a question. “My dad was career military. My husband was a Navy pilot. We don’t keep guns. You know, I have great respect for guns. My dad used to take me on his old ranch in New Mexico and teach me how to shoot. I have great respect for them.”

But, she said, arming teachers wouldn’t work.

“How many little kids could get injured with inexperienced elementary teachers walking around with guns” Robinson said. “It’s not even logical.”

â€" Jennifer Preston

6:55 P.M. |Sandy Hook Promise Responds to White House Plan

Sandy Hook Promise,
a group made up of Newtown residents, including families who lost loved ones in the Dec. 14 mass shooting, issued this statement in response to the actions taken by President Obama on Wednesday:

Sandy Hook Promise welcomes the broad focus of the President’s proposals. We appreciate his decisive action to help address through Executive Order immediate opportunities for reform, and we applaud his broader commitment to finding meaningful common sense solutions to help prevent similar acts of violence in other communities in America. Hopefully this will begin a thoughtful debate in Congress on how best to prevent future inci! dents of ! gun violence.

However, a solution won’t happen just in Washington. We encourage everyone, citizens and politicians, to make and uphold the Sandy Hook Promise, to engage in a constructive national dialogue on all of the important issues involved. As an organization, our purpose is to ensure that we have that dialogue and take action, not just in Washington but in our communities and our homes.

The organization, which began shortly after the shootings, announced its intention on Monday to start a national conversation about reducing gun violence and asks people to join what they call The Sandy Hook Promise.

I Promise to honor the 26 lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I Promise to do everything I can to encourage and support common sense solutions that make my community and our country safer from similar acts of violence.

â€" Jennifer Preston

6:53 P.M. |G.O.P. Criticism of Obama’s Executive Actions

Over on The Caucus, our colleague Charlie Savage rounds up some of the criticism from Republicans of the 23 executive orders President Obama signed Wednesday. Read more…

6:52 P.M. |White House Social Media Campaign: #no! wisthetim! e

The White House digital communications team unveiled a social and digital media campaign Wednesday to help build support for the legislative proposal and executive actions that President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. outlined to help reduce gun violence in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Macon Phillips, director of the White House Office of Digital Strategy, shared a link on Twitter to a new Web page created to explain the proposals, provide social tools for people to share information with their networks and get people involved in lobbying elected officials at the state and federal level.

On the page, the message reads: “Now is the time to do something about gun violence.”

By midafternoon, #NowIsTheTime was trending on Twitter in the United States and generating thousands of posts.

People on the other side of the debate used the hashtag to make their point, as did this Twitter user.

6:12 P.M. |Southern Baptists Want Background Checks

The nation’s largest evangelical church, the Southern Baptist Convention, has taken a stand in support of universal background checks for gun buyers.

The Rev. Richard D. Land, who leads the church’s public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, sent a letter to President Obama endorsing universal checks, while condemning what he called any “knee jerk policy responses” that would infringe on the Second Amendment.

The Southern Baptists often serve as a bellwether for evangelicals, and Reverend Land is an influential voice among Republican policy makers.

In the letter, Mr. Land wrote:

While no set of policies or gun restrictions can inoculate us from future Newtown-like killing sprees, we believe our nation can and should take some preemptive actions to quell gun violence in ways that do not infringe on the Second Amendment. Among legislative actions we support are! mandator! y criminal background checks for all gun sales. Such a policy should close existing loopholes, including the so-called gun show loophole, which enables private sales of firearms without background checks. Additionally, we support making gun trafficking a federal crime. Under present law, a gun trafficker can be convicted only if proven to have knowingly transferred a gun to a felon. A strong federal gun trafficking statute is needed to address this weak standard. Taken together, these reasonable steps would better prevent, though certainly not guarantee, guns from flowing into the hands of felons or others with malevolent intent.

Further, we urge you to take into consideration regional differences regarding the possession of guns. We consider an effort to apply the same gun restriction laws across the entire populace to be unworkable and of considerable offense to many. We recommend that you allow the individual states’ elected representatives to decide whether to implement any restrictions you may hoose to enforce or to enact their own restrictions based on the needs and interests of their own citizens.

The organization was not part of the group of 40 national religious leaders who announced Tuesday, as we reported on The Lede, that they supported a universal background check for gun buyers to help reduce gun violence.

The group, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, sent a letter to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. that also asked that “high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to civilians.” It also asked for gun trafficking to be made a federal crime.

Other leaders on the list, include:

- Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, executive director, American Baptist Home Mission Societies
- James Winkler, chairman, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
- Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president and chief executive, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
- Jim Wallis, president and chief executive of Sojourners
- Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, director, Social Action Commission, African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Sayyid M. Syeed,national director for interfaith and community alliances, Islamic Society of North America
- Rabbi Gerald Skolnik, Rabbinical Assembly
- Rajwant Singh, chairman, Sikh Council on Religion and Education, USA
- Suhag Shukla, executive directr and legal counsel, Hindu American Foundation
- Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach, director, Mennonite Central Committee, Washington office
- Rabbi David Saperstein, director and counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
- Djamillah Samad, national executive, Church Women United Inc.
- James Salt, executive director, Catholics United
- Fred Rotondaro, chairman, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
- Rev. Craig C. Roshaven, witness ministries director, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
- Diane Randall, executive secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Rev. LeDayne McLeese Polaski, program coordinator, Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
- Sister Patricia McDermott, R.S.M., president, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
- Walter L. Parrish, II, executive minister, American Baptist Churches of the South
- Sister Margaret Ormond, O.P., and the leadership team of the Dominican Sisters of Peace - Har! riett Jane Olson, chief executive and general secretary, United Methodist Women
- Stanley J. Noffsinger, general secretary, Church of Brethren
- Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, director for public witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
- Janet Mock, C.S.J., executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious
- Bryan Miller, executive director, Heeding God’s Call
- Pastor Michael McBride, PICO Network Lifelines to Healing
- Kevin E. Lofton, president and chief executive, Catholic Health Initiatives
- Rabbi Mordecai Leibling, Jewish Reconstructionist Movement
- Sister Gayle Lwanga, National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
- Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive, Catholic Health Association
- Rabbi Steve Gutow, president, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
- Rabbi Marla Feldman, executive director, Women of Reform Judaism
- Marlene Feagan, president, Health Ministries Assciation
- Matthew Ellis, executive director, National Episcopal Health Ministries
- Very Rev. John Edmunds S.T., president, Conference of Major Superiors of Men
- Rev. Ronald J. Degges, Disciples Home Mission, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Shan Cretin, general secretary, American Friends Service Committee
- Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, executive director, Pax Christi USA
- Patrick Carolan, executive director, Franciscan Action Network
- Simone Campbell, S.S.S., executive director, Network, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
- Carol Blythe, president, Alliance of Baptists
- Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, general minister and president, United Church of Christ
- Peg Birk, transitional general secretary, National Council of Churches
- Carroll Baltimore, president, Progressive National Baptist Convention

â€" Laurie Goodstein

5:39 P.M. |Obama Presses Senate to Confirm A.T.F. Director

Our colleague Michael S. Schmidt reports on President Obama’s plans to rachet up pressure on lawmakers to do something they have refused to do for the past six years: confirm a permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The president said would he nominate the agency’s acting director, B. Todd Jones, to be its permanent leader.

4:28 P.M. |Boston Mayor Issues Statemnt

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston on Wednesday joined in praising President Obama for his proposals to try to reduce gun violence in America.

“In nearly 20 years as Boston’s mayor, I have watched with frustration as our government has been bullied by special interests and ignored its duty to protect our citizens from gun violence,” Mr. Menino said in a statement.

“At long last,” he said, President Obama’s “historic” proposal shows Washington is listening to the people, who believe schools and movie theaters should be places of safety and joy, â! €œnot con! flict and mass murder.”

Mayor Menino is co-chairman with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

â€" Katharine Q. Seelye

4:18 P.M. |Senator Coburn Praises Obama’s Review of Gun Laws