Fact Check - Obama Gun Plan

Republican response to President Barack Obama's plan to reduce gun violence has been peppered with misleading claims. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas claimed, "Gun bans and anti-gun laws have always led to one thing - more gun violence." Studies on gun laws and crime rates have not shown a causal link - proof that the law caused a change (up or down) in crime rates. So Stockman's implication that these laws caused a change in crime, hasn't been shown. But even if we set aside causation, he's still wrong to say that gun bans have "always" led to more violence.

David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, cautioned "There are a variety of studies that suggest where there are stronger gun laws, you have less violence. ... But I don't know of any studies - any good ones - that show when guns are banned, crime increases."

Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana condemned what he said was Obama's plan to "push" doctors to ask patients if there are guns in their homes. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation explains: "The health law's wellness programs can't require participants to give information about guns in the house."

Stockman also claimed a parent "may face a prison sentence" for giving his or her "son his first hunting rifle," referring to Obama's call for universal background checks on gun sales. But the president's proposal, requiring congressional approval, specifically says there should be "common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said the "Second Amendment to the Constitution is a basic right" that "cannot be ... abridged by the executive power of this or any other president." The Second Amendment can be curtailed by law, as Supreme Court Justice Scalia explained in District of Columbia v. Heller which overturned the district's ban on handguns while recognizing the constitutionality of existing restrictions and limitations on firearms. Scalia, June 26, 2008: "Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms." Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." 307 U.S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons."

The president said he would take "23 executive actions", many of which are fairly innocuous, such as launching "a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign" and directing two cabinet officers to launch a "national dialogue" on mental health. The proposals include banning so-called "assault weapons," restricting gun magazines to no more than 10 rounds, banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets, and requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, with limited exceptions. The president's proposals require congressional action to take effect. Obama's gun violence plan does include three presidential memos. The memos direct The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence, the Department of Justice to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System by identifying relevant federal records that should be part of NICS and Federal law enforcement agencies to trace all guns recovered during criminal investigations.