At a press conference on Dec. 19, President Obama launched an initiative to "not only deter mass shootings in the future, but to reduce the epidemic of gun violence that plagues this country every single day."

The president went on to say that even though no law or set of laws can prevent all gun violence, effective action needs to be taken to reduce gun violence in the country. In addition, the president charged Vice President Biden with heading a group that is to come up with concrete proposals by the end of this month. "We’re going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun," President Obama said. "We’re going to need to look more closely at a culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence."

The president also hinted at some of the possible recommendations, saying that "A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of Americans support laws requiring background checks before all gun purchases, so that criminals can’t take advantage of legal loopholes to buy a gun from somebody who won’t take the responsibility of doing a background check at all."

So the first approach will likely focus on the types of weapons and ammunition offered for sale, where they can be carried and whether they can be carried openly or concealed, loaded or empty. The second target will be gun owners and gun buyers, and whether they are at risk for violence -- if they have been convicted of violent crimes or have serious mental health issues, for instance. The third target might be violent movies, TV shows and video games.

While these measures may sound positive, they have serious shortcomings, and could result in no significant reduction in gun violence. First, half the households in America have one or more guns. Most likely, these guns are unregistered, and guns don't deterioriate -- but they can be stolen, and would become prime targets if new purchases were restricted. If a national database were instituted to preclude individuals from purchasing guns, "straw purchasers" would buy weapons for them, as is already the case.

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Wayne Hanson  | 

Wayne E. Hanson served as a writer and editor with e.Republic from 1989 to 2013, having worked for several business units including Government Technology magazine, the Center for Digital Government, Governing, and Digital Communities. Hanson was a juror from 1999 to 2004 with the Stockholm Challenge and Global Junior Challenge competitions in information technology and education.