Published 1:13 pm Thursday, January 14, 2016

JACKSON – Northampton County Sheriff Jack Smith said he is not sure how or if his department will be impacted by President Barack Obama’s Executive Action on gun control.

In a nationally broadcast speech Jan. 5, Obama announced that he is requiring all gun sellers to get federal licenses to sell guns and that all purchasers of guns would be required to undergo background checks.

The president’s executive order is designed to close loopholes in existing laws to ensure that criminals and potentially violent people with mental illnesses cannot readily purchase firearms.

Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan also said he is not sure how or if the president’s executive order would impact his department or other law enforcement agencies.

Vaughan said he would like to investigate the new rules before commenting on them.

Eddie Caldwell, executive vice-president and general counsel with the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, said he doesn’t anticipate any immediate impact on local law enforcement.

Sheriffs across the state already perform thorough background checks, Caldwell said.

As for advising local sheriff departments on what to prepare for, as the Sheriffs’ Association does, Caldwell said they would need to see the actual presidential orders, which are not yet available, rather than just summaries being printed in the media.

Sheriff Smith said that what it sounds like the president is just trying to reduce gun violence. He asked, “Shouldn’t everybody already get background checks?”

He added, “It’s all about protecting citizens. We should keep guns away from those who are forbidden from having them. If this will make it safer, we will follow the law.”

The National Association of State Legislatures, a non-partisan group dedicated to providing information to state legislatures about matters that might impact states, has prepared an overview of the president’s executive actions.

Its summary is:

Directs the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to require any business that engages in the sale of guns to get a federal license to do so and conduct background checks.

Requires the ATF to conduct background checks of businesses and all other entities for “dangerous firearms.” And require sellers who ship firearms to report them as missing if lost or stolen in transit.

Have federal and state authorities to coordinate on criminal background check information.

Have the FBI overhaul the background check system to make it more efficient and accurate.

Add 200 ATF agents and investigators to enforce existing gun laws. It also adds $4 million to improve the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network.

Asks the Attorney General to get U.S. Attorneys to work with states and localities to increase prevention of domestic violence to prevent offenders from obtaining firearms.

Proposes $500 million to improve mental health care and allow states to report people prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons.

Include mental health information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system if prohibited from having a gun.

Have the departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security research gun safety technology that would reduce unauthorized or accidental discharge of guns.

Have state Attorney Generals prioritize illegal gun trafficking and violent offenders who bypass background check systems.

Remove legal barriers preventing states from providing information about individuals with mental illness who are prohibited from having a gun to the background check system.

For more details of the president’s plan, see the pertinent National Association of State Legislators’ webpage at http://www.ncsl.org