The gun control measures a tearful President Obama announced yesterday would not have prevented the slaughters of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Ct., or 14 county workers at a holiday party in San Bernardino, Ca., the Associated Press reports. Obama’s executive action expands mandatory background checks to gun shows, flea markets and online sales, adds 230 examiners and staff to help process them and calls on states to submit accurate and updated criminal history data. Those measures are seen as crucial to stemming gun suicides — the cause of two-thirds of gun deaths — by blocking immediate access to weapons.
An Associated Press review shows they would have had no impact in keeping weapons from the hands of suspects in several of the deadliest recent mass shootings that have led to calls for tighter gun control. The shooters in Newtown and San Bernardino used weapons bought by others, shielding them from background checks. In other cases, the shooters legally bought guns. In Aurora, Co., and at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., men undergoing mental health treatment were cleared to buy weapons because federal background checks looked to criminal histories and court-ordered commitments for signs of mental illness. The Obama administration is making changes in that area by seeking to plug Social Security Administration data into the background check system and by helping states report more information about people barred from gun possession for mental health reasons. The suspect in a shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C., should have been flagged at the time, but errors and delays cleared the way for his purchase.