Obama says he’ll act on his own in coming days to strengthen gun safety – Los Angeles Times
President Obama said Monday that he has come up with a number of unilateral moves to promote gun safety that are constitutionally sound and “well within my legal authority,” opening his final year in office with explicit plans to make bold use of his executive powers.
On his first working day of the new year, Obama told reporters he will unveil gun safety initiatives over the next several days that he believes are supported by the “overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners.”
“We have to be very clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country. It’s not going to prevent every mass shooting,” Obama acknowledged in a brief statement to reporters in the Oval Office.
But, he said, “It will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and extraordinary loss.”
Obama did not detail his plans, but it appears unlikely that he will act broadly – he has not indicated, for example, that he’ll fully close the so-called gun-show loophole, under which hobbyists or collectors selling firearms don’t have to register as federally licensed dealers and thus don’t have to run background checks on potential buyers.
Closing that gap was one possibility Obama had directed his staff to explore, but he could still narrow it, perhaps by requiring some additional sellers to become licensed dealers. He could also order his administration to interpret anew federal law defining who is engaged in the business of selling guns.
Curbing gun violence has long been a priority for Obama. He has called the day of the Newtown massacre in 2012 the worst of his presidency, and after the October mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Ore., that killed 10, he lamented that “somehow this has become routine.”
After the Roseburg shooting, he also directed aides to again search for ways to limit the flow of guns into the hands of mass killers, and this week’s actions appear to be the fruit of that assignment.
Obama summoned Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch to the Oval Office on Monday to discuss his options. Her Department of Justice has been studying the legal authority he has to act and would be key to carrying out any directives from the president to restrict and regulate gun sales.
Obama’s anticipated rules or regulation change inspired a furious response even in advance of its announcement. Several Republican presidential candidates decried his plans. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Obama a “petulant child” who’s acting “as if he’s a king, as if he’s a dictator.”
And House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Monday that the president is “at a minimum subverting the legislative branch and potentially overturning its will” by acting unilaterally.
The Senate in 2013 rejected Obama’s legislative proposals to overhaul gun laws, including provisions designed to run background checks on potential buyers in every gun sale.
“No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally,” Ryan said. “This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it.”
But legislation isn’t an option realistically available to the president, said Anthony O’Rourke, a University at Buffalo associate professor of law who studies gun regulations and the legislative process.
“In recent years, the NRA has done a great job leveraging the legislative process to prevent any policy reforms in the wake of traumatic events,” O’Rourke said, “so that mass shootings don’t result in closing the gun-show loophole or any real legislative change.”
Aides to Obama say he’s acting precisely because Congress will not.
“We’re not going to be able to pass a law or take an executive action that would prevent every single incident of gun violence,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said. “But if there’s something that we can do that would prevent even one, why wouldn’t we?”
As part of his sales pitch for his execution actions, Obama met Monday with Democratic lawmakers who have for years pushed for tougher gun laws.
On Thursday, he plans to take part in a televised town hall meeting at George Mason University outside Washington. CNN’s Anderson Cooper will moderate the discussion, and Obama will take questions from the audience.
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