Pundits who predicted a month ago that President Obama wouldn't have the political courage to take on the gun lobby and try to change the politics surrounding the status quo were mistaken.
President Barack Obama unveiled sweeping new policies Wednesday aimed at limiting gun violence, teeing up a political showdown that will pit the broad public popularity for many gun control measures against Congress's tepid appetite for approving the most stringent restrictions on gun ownership.
"While there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil," Obama said at a mid-day announcement at the White House, "if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we have an obligation to try it."
The list of proposals from Vice President Biden's task force on gun violence is not short, but it includes universal background checks, a ban on "military-style" assault weapons, limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, and strengthening existing penalties for gun trafficking. [Update: The entirety of the White House plan, entitled, "Now Is the Time: The President’s Plan to Protect our Children and our Communities by Reducing Gun Violence," is online here (pdf).]
The president also took 23 executive actions -- which will not require congressional approval -- though nearly all are fairly modest in scope.
They include providing gun dealers guidance on how to run background checks, nominating an ATF director (the Senate has refused to confirm an ATF director for six years), informing state health officials about the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover, and launching "a national dialogue ... on mental health."
Obama conceded that the bulk of the reforms must be approved by lawmakers and challenged them to act.
As the next phase begins in earnest, there will be plenty of speculation about what, if anything, can get through Congress, but in the meantime, it's worth appreciating the president's ambition on stemming the tide of gun violence. Obama didn't narrow his focus to a few ideas in the hopes that modesty might win over skeptics, he swung for the fences, unveiling "the most sweeping effort at gun control policy reform in a generation."
Second Update: The full video of today's White House event is above, and the transcript is now online.