But here are two things that can make a real difference — without a vote in Congress.

First: The president can direct the surgeon general to compile a scientific study of the health effect of individual gun ownership. …

Congress in the mid-1990s forbade the federal government to fund its own research into the health risks presented by guns. By now, however, enough research has been done by privately funded scholars that the surgeon general could write a report based on existing material. Such a report would surely reach the conclusion that a gun in the home greatly elevates risks of suicide, lethal accident and fatal domestic violence. The first step to changing gun policy is to change public attitudes about guns, as Americans previously changed their attitudes about tobacco and drunken driving. …

The second step that might be taken — again without the need for any congressional vote — is for the Senate to convene hearings into the practices of the gun industry analogous to those it convened into the tobacco industry in the 1990s. …

So many gun accidents occur because guns almost never indicate whether a bullet is present in the chamber. A gun owner might remove the gun’s magazine and believe the gun unloaded, when in fact it still contains one potentially deadly shot. Why not require guns to be equipped with indicator lights? …