NASW Congratulates President Obama’s Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

President Obama this week  issued New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.

The executive action primarily deals with the sale and exchange of firearms in the United States. While Obama’s executive action will not end the unacceptable level of gun violence in the United States, it is a major and significant step towards reducing the access to guns by those who would harm themselves and others.

Key Provisions

The President’s executive action includes the following key provisions:

  • The Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Administration (ATF) is taking steps to finalize a rule to require background checks for potential buyers of the most dangerous weapons; establish an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking; and finalize a rule to ensure that dealers notify authorities if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.
  • The FBI is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient.
  • The Attorney General directed federal prosecutors to continue to focus on effective enforcement of our gun laws.
  • The Administration is proposing a new $500-million investment to increase access to mental health care.
  • The Social Security Administration will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons;
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is finalizing a rule to remove legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.

Mental Health and Gun Control

Of particular interest to clinical social workers is the proposed new $500 million in funding for mental health. Those dollars are to increase access to mental health care by targeting the seriously mentally ill and increasing the service capacity of the behavioral health workforce.

The section of the executive action that social workers, physicians and psychologist should pay attention to is the plan to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information to the background check system.

The content of this section is as follows:

Although states generally report criminal history information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), many continue to report little information about individuals who are prohibited by federal law from possessing or receiving a gun for specific mental health reasons.

Some state officials raised concerns about whether such reporting would be precluded by the Privacy Rule issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

The Department of Heath and Human Services issued a final rule expressly permitting certain HIPAA covered entities to provide to NIC limited demographic and other necessary information about these individuals.

We are concerned that this could compromise the important protection of confidentiality that HIPAA provides.This provision has a potential for wrongfully reporting persons to NICS.

Therefore, NASW will join other mental health advocates to work with the White House on assurances that the government will develop processes that will give individuals the ability to petition to have their names removed from the gun restriction list.

Gun Safety Research

President Obama broke into tears while announcing new executive orders on gun control. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

President Obama broke into tears while announcing new executive orders on gun control. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Many social workers may not be aware that in 1997 Congress expressly forbade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting empirical research on the causes and prevention of gun violence. This prohibition was the result of intensive pressure from the gun lobby. After the Newtown massacre, President issued an executive order that allowed for CDC to conduct limited data collection on gun violence.

On a whole, President Obama’s New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer was an important step that will hopefully lead to measurable reductions in deaths and injuries from gun violence. However, there are still several steps Congress can take to curb gun violence, which has clearly become a major national public health issue:

  • Ensure President Obama receives the $500 million in funding needed to enhance the nation’s mental health system.
  • Recognize that gun violence is a public health emergency by immediately lifting the ban on CDC by allowing it conduct research on the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  • Ensure that the states and relevant federal agencies have sufficient funding to monitor gun sales and end illegal sales of guns by enforcing existing and enhanced laws.
  • Work with the Obama Administration and future presidents on sensible gun policies and legislation.

We all should be reminded that over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence.

During that period, millions more have been the victim of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving guns.

Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died by suicide by using guns. Nearly 500,000 Americans  suffered other gun injuries,and many children are killed or injured by firearms every year, often by accident.

Though we have concerns about what seems to be a weakening of confidentiality protections in the executive action, we support the President’s efforts. It is without a doubt that, as a nation, we must respond to the gun violence crisis.

The president’s New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer is a positive step in that direction.

 For more information contact National Association of Social Workers Social Justice and Human Rights Manager Mel Wilson at


  1. This week Monday, March 14, 2016 a teenage girl was hit by a stray bullet in Philadelphia, PA, and SHE DIED!!!! As a result of a current medical condition that causes me to take several medications, I have never touched alcohol, nor do I own a gun. Despite the fact that people can possibly abuse the use of alcohol, I’d rather be sitting next to someone drinking alcohol, than someone who is playing with guns.

  2. I agree with my colleagues in questioning the wisdom and benefit of firearm restrictions on law-abiding citizens. Moreover, I have come to believe that those who seek to limit or banish gun ownership are motivated more by their dislike of firearms than by wanting to save lives– if reducing death and injury is the priority, then why is there no talk of restricting the possession of alcohol?

  3. I strongly disagree with the endorsement of President Obama’s the proposed gun control by Executive Fiat.
    Since his State of the Union address and recent executive action, there is an unprecedented demand for guns. This President is trying to destroy our liberty with his pen by writing these executive orders.
    By defining what an “occasional seller” is, the president is essentially interpreting the law, a job reserved for the court. He is looking to erode the Second Amendment which is our right to bear arms. This is a fundamental liberty which is accorded the highest protection from government intrusion. He is looking to take away our liberty. He has his body guards, what do we have? As has been said, “When seconds count, the police are minutes away.”
    Obama insists on disarming Americans at the same time he is encouraging mass migration of an unvetted Syrian population despite reports of women being raped in Germany and Switzerland by this same population. He knows very well America does not have the resources to vet this population properly. If you want to talk about the War on Women, this is it. He is taking away the ability of women and men to protect themselves.
    Obama is encouraging the Federal government to invade the patient doctor privilege. Doctors are now required to report conversations with their patients about guns to the Department of Homeland Security. California is the blueprint for America and this is only the beginning of America shredding the Second Amendment.
    In the State of California a new law took place as of January 1, 2016 which allows the government to seize your guns without notice for 21 days if a judge thinks there is a mental illness. The American Psychiatric Association points out in its position statement that while research shows most people diagnosed with serious mental health conditions are never violent toward others, and most violent individuals do not suffer from these major mental disorders, merely having a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder should not be the only basis for disqualification from firearms. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is now recommending that all pregnant women and new mothers be screened for depression. If this were not the Obama administration I would be ok with it but this President is an out of control Marxist who is looking to keep his promise of transforming this country before his leaves office. He is working his way around the Second Amendment in a warm and fuzzy way to achieve gun confiscation. The transformation will be to a Marxist State. California being the blueprint for his vision of America.
    There are those who tell us that America should be like other countries. Their rational? Those countries that have gun control or ban guns entirely, are safer countries. This is an absolute falsehood. A study published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy concludes that the countries with the strictest gun control have the highest rates of violent crime. Australia and England, which have virtually banned gun ownership, have the highest rates of robbery, sexual assault, and assault with force of the top 17 industrialized countries. In Australia, from the inception of firearm confiscation to March 27, 2000, the numbers are:
    • Firearm-related murders were up 19%
    • Armed robberies were up 69%
    • Home invasions were up 21%
    The sad part is that in the 15 years before the national gun confiscation:
    • Firearm-related homicides dropped nearly 66%
    • Firearm-related deaths fell 50%

    I cannot endorse this gun control policy. Government without control can mean corruption, imprisonment, trial without a jury, slavery, the shutting down of opposition. The Second Amendment is being threatened by this President. We are experiencing a soft tyranny and if the Second Amendment is repealed, this country is doomed. If we are prohibited from arming ourselves, we cannot protect ourselves from a government gone awry which was the original intent of the Second Amendment.

    Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.
    -James Madison, the Federalist Papers.

  4. Diane Liberman LCSW

    As social workers we need to ban all non-police officers from the possession and purchase of all firearms by changing the Second Amendment to state this. Then we can ban the National Rifle Association and close down the factories which manufacture firearms to sell. This is the only way to decrease homicides, suicides and accidental gun deaths in this country. Just trying to report mentally-ill people is not effective because most people become mentally-ill when bad things happen to them such as getting fired from a job or discovering their lover is cheating on them. We will never be able to control gun violence by allowing people to have guns. We must follow the lead of other countries that ban firearms.

    • The countries that ban firearms are experiencing higher levels of terrorist attacks via bombs, chemical attacks and other ways to kill people. As for taking away my weapons used to defend myself in my own home that I have legally obtained….no way! The U.S. government has already dictated one consumer good I am required to legally have: health insurance.

      If we did take away all the guns, I have a few practical questions:
      1. How do we pay for this enforcement?
      2. How do we ensure all guns are off the street?
      3. How do ensure and pay for the elimination of a black market for arms and ammunition?
      4. What do we do with all of these weapons upon confiscation?
      5. Do you really trust the government to do this? They can’t provide timely health and mental health care for our veterans. They can’t enforce their existing immigration laws, nor provide vetting or safety for the thousands of illegal immigrants flowing in each day.

      As previously stated, NASW should be leading the way into research into the root causes of violence, not just gun violence.

    • Wow, Diane your a special kind of stupid. Ban all guns… Might as well go after knifes, vehicles, pressure cookers etc while your at it. Look at other countries that banned guns….they still find a way murder others. You want a prime example of where guns are “banned” is Chiraq, I mean Chicago. Criminals will always find a way to get a weapon just like Mexico. All you are proposing is to not allow law abiding citizens their rights to protect their family.

    • I am a licensed social worker and a long time gun owner. When people in general make claims that guns need to be banished, I beleive it displays a sense of ignorance. Especially social workers, as we are supposed to view problems and individuals from various perspectives. I don’t hear anyone trying to ban alcohol, and how many lives are ruined in various ways from alcohol each year? A common theme in the majority of all of these horrific mass shootings is that the perpetrators attack places where there is a lesser likelihood that individuals will be able to defend themselves. You don’t see attacks on police stations. These cowards who target places where there is a higher probability of unarmed citizens would only have more opportunity if people lose the right to bear arms. Yes, more work needs to be done to limit the access to guns for people who will use them for harm, but the majority of gun owners are responsible people.

    • Chris I am also a licensed therapist and have hunted all my life. We need to focus on the roots of crime and discontent. Passing gun laws makes some people feel good-but only is a cosmetic gesture.

  5. They are going to report all SSI people who have payees to be reported to NICS. Obama has failed to enforce current gun crimes 40% since he took office.

  6. The wording in the title: “….to Reduce On Gun Violence”? What?

    I have yet to hear one word about where the funding will be generated from, for all of the key provisions. Government funds don’t magically appear–they are generated by taxes on the citizens. (Oh yes, I forgot….I reportedly don’t pay my “fair share”, whatever that is.)

    Where is the research into root causes of violence? If all our guns were taken away today, the shooters would create bombs or use other means to commit violence. It’s not the guns that kill, it’s the people.

    • I totally agree Beth. This is just a “feel good” action and another excuse for Obama to under cut the constitution. Real reform has to take place at the family level. Dads and moms have to fulfill their obligations to their children. The people committing the violence never were nurtured properly and have never felt safe in our world. Thus they act out of anger and fear.

    • Beth, I agree completely. We are trying to put a band-aide over our own lack of research into the social issues that are creating the anger and lack of respect for human life. As for the countries that have banned guns, some are reversing those laws such as Australia. I think it is very sad and somewhat embarrassing that NASW supports this very short-sighted view. It also shows how narrow of a viewpoint our profession has taken and is not educated on history, economics, or government. Actually a stand for this violates our own ethics to empower the people. Sad, sad, sad.

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