From a jam packed East Room at the White House President Barack Obama today held a press conference to explain a series of new executive actions designed to cut down on gun violence. The orders come only after Congress has failed to pass any meaningful gun regulations despite most American’s wanting tighter gun background check laws.
Those present today at the East Room, were some of the most vocal gun control activists and families of gun-violence victims in the country.
Addressing the crowd the President said that Americans have become numb to mass shootings, and that the issue of guns have become “one of the most polarizing, most partisan debates in the country.”
“We do have to feel a sense of urgency,” Obama said. “People are dying. … And the constant excuses for inaction no longer suffice.”
The centerpiece of the president’s actions is requiring background checks on firearm sales at gun shows, flea markets and online. Obama has called gun violence the most frustrating issue of his presidency; he’s faced persistent opposition to new gun control laws from Capitol Hill and gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association.
The actions tie up the loopholes in the current gun laws and ask Congress for funding to hire more ATF agents and enhance mental health services. The Federal Bureau of Investigation will also hire 230 additional employees to speed up processing of background checks.
As you might expect this is not something that is popular with the powerful Congressional gun lobby who fight any type of background checks. Many sellers in those areas don’t register with the federal government as dealers, a practice supporters of gun control say allows them to avoid background checks.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will issue new guidance that says anyone who is “in the business of selling firearms” will be considered a dealer, no matter where they sell guns.
The measures fall short of making background checks universal, as failed legislation in 2013 would have done. And because the actions are issued as guidelines, and not new rules or regulations, the next president could quickly rescind them.
Several Republican candidates running to replace Obama have vowed to reverse his actions.