An emotional President Barack Obama has announced a series of executive actions aimed at tightening US gun laws. Flanked by relatives of victims, he said constant excuses for inaction “no longer suffice”.
Mr Obama wiped tears from his cheeks as he spoke emotionally about those killed by firearms in the US. The President, who has made strengthening gun laws a central focus heading into his final year in office, accused the gun lobby of holding Congress hostage.
but said “they cannot hold America hostage.””We can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment,” Mr Obama said in reference to Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.Speaking about the 20 schoolchildren killed in 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut, he said: “Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day. “So all of us need to demand that Congress be brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies.”
The President announced four initiatives on Tuesday that he said will help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Among them are requirements for more gun sellers to obtain licenses and more gun buyers to undergo background checks.
“We’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules,” he said. “A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the internet with no background check, no questions asked.”
Mr Obama’s expansion on background checks will require anyone selling a gun, whether at a gun show or over the internet, to conduct checks on potential buyers. The President also outlined a plan to ask Congress for $500m (£340m) to expand access to treatment for mental illness across the country, and announced expansions on government research into gun safety measures.
“If we can make it possible to unlock a phone with a fingerprint, why can’t we do it with guns?” he said. The National Rifle Association said Mr Obama’s proposals are “ripe for abuse” by the government. “The American people do not need more emotional, condescending lectures that are completely devoid of facts,” said Chris Cox, executive director for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action.
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who has accused Mr Obama of “executive overreach”, called the President’s initiatives “distractions from his failed record”. “He knows full well that the law already says that people who make their living selling firearms must be licensed, regardless of venue,” Mr Ryan said. “Still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty.” Mr Ryan added that Mr Obama’s executive actions “will no doubt be challenged in the courts”.