CINCINNATI - Despite the sweeping series of proposed legislative changes and executive orders unveiled by President Obama Wednesday to overhaul the nation’s gun laws, reaction from the Tri-State’s congressional delegation has been mostly restrained, for now.
Unlike passage of other controversial measures like the fiscal cliff deal and health care reforms, there’s been no flurry of public statements or press releases in response to Obama’s latest actions.
Obama urged Congress to pass bills that would revive a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Also, the president wants lawmakers to require background checks for all gun sales – including so-called “secondary gun sales” that include transactions between private individuals, along with sales at gun shows or over the Internet.
Further, Obama signed 23 executive orders to make more immediate, smaller-scale changes.
They include requiring federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system; reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes; lifting a 17-year ban on government research into the public health effects of gun violence; and informing physicians that they may legally inquire about whether their patients own firearms.
The actions, which come one month after a deadly shooting spree at an elementary school in Connecticut, are designed to reduce gun violence.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, didn’t comment on the proposals. Instead, his spokesman issued a brief statement to reporters at the White House.
"House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations," said spokesman Michael Steel. "And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that."
Although U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Terrence Park, didn’t issue a formal statement about the plan, he did tell an Ohio newspaper, “It appears the president has chosen to act unilaterally wherever he can and focus on new, unproven gun bans which would undermine the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from a Cleveland suburb, was supportive.
“It’s now time for Congress to renew the assault weapons ban, a common-sense effort to prevent the proliferation of deadly, high-powered weapons, and close the gun show loophole that prevents background checks from being conducted to ensure guns are purchased lawfully,” Brown said in a statement.
But U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, a Republican from Indiana, said he wouldn’t support the assault weapons ban.
“I will not support legislation or executive actions that would affect gun ownership rights for law-abiding citizens, including any assault weapons ban,” Coats said.
He added, “Laws alone cannot eliminate all acts of violence. As Americans we need to examine a culture that increasingly glamorizes violence and determine how we can better identify and address mental illness in our society.”
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer, a Republican from Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, was quick to denounce the president’s plan.
“The president’s attempt to circumvent Congress to implement part of his gun grab should concern all Americans, regardless of whether they own a firearm,” Messer said. “These proposals should be carefully considered by Congress and not rushed through by a president who is unwilling or not interested in working with the representatives of the people.”
Messer added, “Our entire nation mourns the terrible loss of life that occurred in Connecticut last month. In response, we need a serious discussion about how we treat mental health in our country. I am ready and willing to work together on real solutions like improving school security and determining how we best identify and treat the people who carry out such evil acts.”
U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District, hasn’t yet released an official statement on the proposal.
As a libertarian-leaning politician who favors less government regulation, however, it’s unlikely Massie will support Obama’s plan. Earlier this month, he introduced his first bill, which would repeal the federal ban on guns in school zones.
Also remaining mum on the issue so far are U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican representing Ohio’s 1st Congressional District; Brad Wenstrup, a Republican representing Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District; and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul from Kentucky.
Interestingly, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky and Senate minority leader, didn’t issue a statement. Instead, he deferred to Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat who is Senate majority leader.
“Sen. McConnell will continue to defend the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Kentuckians,” Reid said in a prepared statement.
It added, “While the administration acknowledged that there is much more to be done to enforce existing law, Sen. McConnell’s first test of any new legislation the majority leader decides to bring before the Senate will be on whether or not it infringes on the