WASHINGTON –– An emotional President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases at the White House, saying the “constant excuses for inaction” have to stop.
The White House has outlined his plans for executive action, which focus on background checks.
Most of the actions can be carried out without congressional approval.
“That’s why we’re here; not to do something about the last mass shooting, but to prevent the next one,” he said.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” Obama said.
He gave his remarks surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings, recalling mass shootings in the United States in the past few years and everyday gun violence in cities like Chicago.
An emotional President Barack Obama employed all of his rhetorical skill to justify what are, in reality, executive actions that modestly expand federal regulation of firearm sales.
Standing in a room filled with victims of gun violence, he explained that the murder of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, had changed him –– and that he hoped it would change the country.
Three years have passed since that school massacre, however, and the country hasn’t changed. While some states have toughened their laws, others have expanded gun rights and the US Congress has taken no action.
So Obama did what he could, and wrapped the move in language that sounded more appropriate for a ceremony announcing the passage of sweeping legislation that, in today’s political environment, has no chance of reaching his presidential desk.
And even this small move will likely be fiercely challenged in court, in Congress and at the ballot box by whichever Republican wins the nomination fight to replace him in 2017.
Gun violence is significantly higher in the United States than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year.
Congress has been reluctant to pass any laws restricting gun ownership, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.
Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.
The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.
Leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted: “@POTUS is right: We can protect the Second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to.”
Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions were unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says “Obama wants your guns” with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.
During Obama’s speech, comedian Amy Schumer, cousin of New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer, was in the audience. Two women died in a shooting at a movie theatre in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Trainwreck.
Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a shooting, was there as well, in addition to many relatives of victims and survivors of mass shooting.