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Can Better Background Checks, Mental Health Care Reduce Gun Violence?

An executive action would expand mandatory background checks for firearm sales at gun shows. (M and R Glasgow/Flickr)
An executive action would expand mandatory background checks for firearm sales at gun shows. (M and R Glasgow/Flickr)
January 6, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohioans working to end gun violence are commending President Obama for taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. The president on Tuesday announced several executive actions on guns in response to a series of mass shootings in recent years.

Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said one measure would expand mandatory background checks for some private gun sellers, including those online and at gun shows.

"Right now, if someone knows they don't qualify, they will go (to) a place that they don't have to pass a background check. That only makes sense, so that's what they do," she said. "So, if we close that, we will prohibit the people that shouldn't have them from having them."

Other measures include expanding the role of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and making a $500 million investment to improve access to mental-health care. Hoover said she believes the changes will increase public safety and enforce current law.

Opponents are promising to fight them, although the president said he's confident the actions will withstand any legal challenges. Obama also was criticized for bypassing Congress, but Hoover said past attempts at gun-control reform have failed, despite public opinion.

"Over 90 percent of Americans - they've been polled numerous times - agree that we ought to have a background check to make sure someone isn't a felon, domestic abuser, been adjudicated mentally ill," she said. "Everybody agrees with that, and Congress hasn't touched it."

She said other measures to reduce gun violence include better research and data collection, and making the background check system more efficient. According to new FBI data, gun sales in 2015 were the highest recorded, with background checks on gun purchases and permits up 10 percent.

Video of the president's full announcement is online at

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH