This morning at the White House, President Barack Obama announced the series of Executive Actions he plans to enact to increase gun safety, reduce gun violence, and help those subject to or afflicted by gun violence. Obama deemed his actions necessary given the lack of action from Congress, even in the face of popular support for such measures as expanding background checks for gun purchases.
“Maybe we can’t save everybody, but we can save some,” Obama said in a speech in the East Room of the White House, where he was joined by survivors and families of the victims of gun violence.
Obama wiped away tears as he recalled the children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Conn., shooting rampage. He noted that tragedy didn’t translate into congressional action, even for measures that enjoy lopsided support among the American public. Legislation to expand background checks was blocked in 2013.
“The gun lobby may be able to hold Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage,” he said.
A central feature of his actions are steps to expand the definition of who is a gun dealer, as those in the business of selling guns are currently required to perform background checks before making a sale. A big push among groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has been to close loopholes on sales of guns on the Internet and at gun shows. Although the executive action would not fall short of preventing all sales of guns without background checks, Obama said that it would expand the number of people and entities who will fall under existing law. He also unveiled measures to improve the background check system.
He also talked of the need to boost research on gun violence and gun safety, and to boost funding for mental health.
Though many detractors, lobbyists and Republican politicians decried Obama’s initiatives, Obama said that his moves are “not a plot to take away” guns and that background checks are not “some slippery slope to gun confiscation.” He didn’t mention Donald Trump by name, but his reference was to some of his rhetoric.
Instead, Obama compared his actions to efforts to boost safety in cars and even toys. “We know that there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people,” he said.
Some of his proposals — like a $500 million investment in mental health services and budget items for 200 new ATF agents — still require congressional support.
Obama will participate on Thursday in a town hall on gun violence. You can watch his impassioned, detailed speech in full below:
article by Ted Johnson via Variety.com; additions by Lori Lakin Hutcherson