POTUS unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases at the White House, saying the “constant excuses for inaction” have to stop. He was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. (Obama circled back to that shooting in the final moments of his speech)
The White House has outlined his plans for executive action, which focus on background checks.
Most of the actions can be carried out without Congressional approval.
“That’s why we’re here, not to do something about the last mass shooting, but to prevent the next one,” he said.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” Mr Obama said.
He gave his remarks surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings, recalling mass shootings in the US in the past few years and everyday gun violence in cities like Chicago.
The White House is seeking to expand background checks for buyers. The measure clarifies that individuals “in the business of selling firearms” register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.
The executive actions include:
- Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers
- States providing information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence
- Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners
- Congress being asked to invest $500m (£339m) to improve access to mental healthcare in the US
- The departments of defence, justice and homeland security exploring “smart gun technology” to improve gun safety
The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.
Leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: “@POTUS is right: We can protect the second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to.”
Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions are unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says “Obama wants your guns” with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.
Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito “Tragedy after terrible tragedy has proven beyond doubt that the time for stringent federal gun control is long overdue. While Republicans in Congress stalled and squalled, thousands of men, women, and young children in our country have suffered and died because of lax regulations that allow these deadly weapons into the wrong hands. Consistently backward and shameful efforts to block sensible gun reform make Washington Republicans complicit in these tragedies – but we as a nation cannot and should not allow the lives of those we lost to be in vain. The executive action signed by President Obama will close dangerous loopholes in our current gun laws and tighten reporting requirements so that fewer guns end up on our streets and in our communities. This is a critical step on the path to ending the fatal epidemic of gun violence in our nation. I thank President Obama for taking action.”
President Barack Obama grew emotional Tuesday, January 5, as he made a passionate call for a national “sense of urgency” to limit gun violence.
Gun violence is significantly higher in the US than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year.
Congress has been reluctant to pass any laws restricting gun ownership, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.
Mr Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.