President Obama unveiled several measures today intended to advance his gun safety agenda, saying he could not wait for an end to political gridlock to pursue efforts to reduce gun violence.
"The constant excuses for inaction no longer do. No longer suffice. That's why we're here today," Obama said as he addressed a room full of gun safety advocates and survivors of gun violence from the East Room of the White House.
"Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one."
He added: “Until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence to save more lives."
Obama has said the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 was the worst day of his presidency. Today, he said that massacre and the many others demand urgent action.
“Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad. And, by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day,” Obama said, his tears starting to flow.
One of the measures he proposed clarifies an existing law that requires almost anyone who sells guns for a living to register as a firearms dealer and conduct background checks on clients. The president is also proposing new investments for mental health access, research into gun safety technology and additional Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents and investigators, although Congress would have to approve that funding.
The executive actions on gun control under consideration by Obama are within his legal authority, the president said Monday after a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and other U.S. law enforcement officials.
“The good news is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in,” the president said following the meeting in the Oval Office.
He later added the proposals are also “entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms.”
After October’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Obama asked his team to analyze what executive authority he could take on gun control. He has said addressing ways to curb gun violence is part of his “New Year’s resolution” to complete unfinished business in the final year of his presidency.
Even before the White House unveiled the gun control measures, Republicans were criticizing the president for what they said was an abuse of authority.
House Speaker Paul Ryan accused the president of “subverting he legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will.”
But Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders embraced the president’s initiatives.
In addition to his speech today, the president will participate in a one-hour live town hall on gun control Thursday evening on CNN. That day marks the fifth anniversary of the shooting in Tucson, Arizona, of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The president acknowledged that executive actions won’t prevent all gun violence in the United States.
“This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country. It’s not going to prevent every mass shooting. It’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal,” he said Monday. “It will potentially save lives in this country and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm being in the hands of wrong people.”