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Obama Reports Progress on Rules to Deter Gun Violence

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference with college students in the Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington, April 28, 2016.

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference with college students in the Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington, April 28, 2016.

President Barack Obama has announced measures intended to help reduce gun violence in the United States, by using technology to develop "smart guns" and more coordinated action by governments to improve background checks on gun buyers.

A White House statement Friday said there has been "important progress" in implementing proposals that Obama announced earlier this year.

The president called for more accurate and efficient background checks - to ensure that guns are not sold to "the wrong people," such as those suffering from mental illness - and for technology that would keep guns out of the hands of children, or of anyone other than the gun owner.

Gun-related deaths

Each year, guns kill more than 30,000 Americans, either as a result of suicide, domestic violence, criminal action including gang violence or accidents. The president said the proposals he announced in January would tackle several aspects of the gun-violence problem.

"These common-sense steps are not going to precent every tragedy, but what if they prevent even one?" the president asked in a Facebook post.

A significant number of gun deaths occur because someone other than the gun’s owner was handling it, said Valerie Jarrett, a long-time senior adviser to the president. Typically such cases involve a child who finds and fires a gun by accident, or criminals using stolen or illegally trafficked firearms.

FILE - Guns seized by the police are displayed during a news conference in New York.

FILE - Guns seized by the police are displayed during a news conference in New York.

'Smart guns'

“Smart guns” would boast enhanced safety features to make it difficult or impossible for unauthorized users to fire them.

Referring to modern cellphones that will not operate unless the user places a finger on the screen, Obama has said: “If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?”

The U.S. departments of defense, homeland and security all have been studying the "smart-gun" issue, and they expect new regulations to be published within six months.

The president also has called for increased spending of up to $500 million on improved mental-health treatment facilities, and the Social Security Administration announced a proposed new rule Friday to ensure that "appropriate information" about those who have been treated for mental problems is available to government agencies checking the backgrounds of gun buyers.

Jarrett said the administration recognizes "that individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators," while also remembering that those who should not possess firearms are prohibited from buying them.

The White House also announced Friday that Obama will convene a conference next month with state and local leaders discussing efforts to reduce gun violence at all levels of government.

“The agenda will focus on state and local efforts to prevent gun violence through legislative and executive actions, including those focused on reducing gun violence in domestic abuse incidents and furthering research and development of smart-gun technologies,” the statement said.

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