Holder guns speech focuses on background checks

January 18, 2013

Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday urged the nation’s mayors to support universal background checks for gun purchasers, a move that suggests the White House views the provision as perhaps the most politically feasible part of its broad new gun policy agenda.

“As the President indicated, Congress should move swiftly to adopt legislation to require ‘universal’ background checks, so that a full background check is conducted every time someone attempts to buy a gun,” Holder told a panel at the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, according to his prepared remarks.

“By taking this relatively simple step, we can significantly strengthen our ability to keep criminals and other dangerous individuals from gaining access to deadly weapons.”

Holder’s speech to the group’s Criminal and Social Justice Committee came one day after Vice President Biden delivered a point-by-point defense of the White House gun agenda in a luncheon address at the mayoral summit. President Obama on Thursday unveiled the 23-point plan on taking action against gun violence in the wake of last month’s Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting.

The White House proposal calls for action in four main areas: the implementation of universal background checks, a crackdown on gun trafficking, the passage of an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines.

Of those four, the push for universal background checks is the White House’s top priority, Obama administration officials have said, noting that the provision stands the greatest chance of achieving the bipartisan consensus necessary to pass Congress.

In his remarks on Friday, Holder also called for action on several other parts of the Obama administration’s guns agenda, including the proposed assault-weapons ban and other key provisions.

He also called for the end of a “freeze” on gun research carried out by the Centers for Disease Control; greater access for individuals to mental-health services; and increased school safety, although he did not directly address the suggestion of increasing the number of armed officers in public schools.

“As you’ve been discussing this week – and as the president has made quite clear – we cannot yet be satisfied, and this is clearly no time to become complacent,” Holder said.

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Aaron Blake · January 18, 2013