Justice Department Shelved Background Check Recommendations

Sunday, 16 Dec 2012 11:18 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Justice Department last year drew up a list of steps to take to expand government background checks that could keep criminals and mentally ill people from getting guns, but the recommendations still remain shelved.

The federal agency began working on its list of recommendations after Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot last year, reports The New York Times. However, the proposals got left behind as, the election heated up and Congress began investigating Operation Fast and Furious.

The recommendations, which center on improving background checks — not banning weapons — may not have helped prevent Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

However, the proposals could form the basis of an executive order which could be signed by President Barack Obama, who said Saturday he wants to take “meaningful action” to prevent further tragedies. An executive order would bypass what would almost certainly be a tempestuous debate in Congress.

Political pressure is building among Democrats, including Democratic U.S. Rep. John Larson of Connecticut, to pass measures requiring background checks along with bans on assault rifles and high-capacity bullet clips.

Americans are still divided over stricter gun-control laws. The Justice Department didn’t focus on weapons in its recommendations, saying it would be difficult to push such measures through Congress.

Instead, it wants to boost the F.B.I.’s database for background checks. It also recommends that agencies such as Social Security inform the F.B.I. when they send checks to people, who are incompetent to handle finances, or when job applicants fail drug tests.

Justice said Congress should expand the list of transactions subject to background checks, including requiring private sellers to check buyer backgrounds just as licensed dealers need do now.

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