• With: Dan Henninger, Jason Riley, Kim Strassel, Joe Rago

    This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," January 19, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," as the president unveils his gun control agenda, we'll look at the good, the bad and the probably unconstitutional.

    Plus, from immigration to deficit reduction, what else is on his second-term to-do list. And is compromise or confrontation the real goal?

    Plus, the suicide of an Internet activist has his family crying foul. Was Aaron Swartz a victim of government intimidation and a run-away federal prosecutor?


    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: While there's no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil, if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try it.


    GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    That was President Obama rolling out the administration's plan to curb gun violence. The president outlined 23 executive actions, including steps to make more federal data available from background checks and increased access to mental health services. And he called on Congress to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban and prohibit high-capacity gun magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds.

    So, what's likely to get passed and what difference will it make? Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Political Diary editor, Jason Riley; and Washington columnist, Kim Strassel.

    So, Dan, just as a hypothetical, let's assume that everything the president is proposing becomes law. What difference would it make?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, it's not quite a hypothetical, Paul. The president just said, if we can save just one life, if we have to do this. From 1994, to 2004, we had the law banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. The National Research Council and the Centers for Disease Control took a deep look at the effect of that law and their conclusion was it was impossible to determine whether it had reduced any crime in the United States. In 2005, the National Research Council looked again. Their conclusion was that the government's collection of data about guns is so poor, that it's impossible to understand whether any good is coming of these laws.

    You'd hate to reduce it to something as bureaucratic as the federal government's inability to track these guns, but that is about what it comes down to. There is just no evidence that those laws make any difference.

    GIGOT: Jason?

    JASON RILEY, POLITICAL DIARY EDITOR: In fact, Paul, gun violence has fallen since the assault weapons ban expired.

    GIGOT: In 2004 was it, I think?

    RILEY: In 2004. So, the relevant question is that these are proposals being put forward in response to Sandy Hook and gun violence overall in the country. So, will they address that problem? The universal background check would have been passed by the person who bought the gun used in Connecticut.

    GIGOT: Well, let me argue that some the things he's proposed on mental health, for example, easing the law called HIPAA, which is a federal privacy law, if you ease that and allow people, like administrators in schools or doctors and medical officers, to be able to share information when they see some kid who seems to be troubled, and identify him and maybe push him into assisted treatment, that kind of thing would help, seems to me.

    HENNINGER: It would definitely help. That side of it is the piece we haven't had much of a conversation about.

    GIGOT: It's almost like an afterthought. The president offered it, but may be the most effective.

    HENNINGER: But the Newtown events, the Virginia Techs, the sort of killing in the theaters in Colorado by these violently mentally ill people really is not related to gun control. It's about what you're describing, which is monitoring and ensuring that those people are taking their medication, and that's what's been a weak part of the system until perhaps now.

    RILEY: Let's also keep in mindless that than 3 percent of gun crimes in this country involve the assault weapons that the president wants to ban.

    GIGOT: Most of them are handguns actually.

    RILEY: Of course.

    GIGOT: So why isn't he proposing then to ban handguns?


    Well, why not?


    If most people, who are victims of gun violence, are killed by handguns, why not ban handguns.

    HENNINGER: Because the banned guns, they are illegal on the streets of Chicago and New York --

    GIGOT: It's also --

    HENNINGER: -- in gang crimes.

    GIGOT: It's also unconstitutional.


    RILEY: There is a Second Amendment there, right.

    GIGOT: And that was found in 2008, the Heller case --

    RILEY: The Heller case.

    GIGOT: -- which expressly involved handguns and guns in common use.