A looming fight over gun control promises to start Washington’s political year with a bang.
President Barack Obama could issue executive orders aimed at reducing gun violence as early as Monday, provoking a battle with Republicans on Capitol Hill and on the presidential campaign trial.
“Tens of thousands of our fellow Americans have been mowed down by gun violence. Tens of thousands,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday. “Each time, we’re told that commonsense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, so we shouldn’t do anything.”
FILE - An instructor shows a boy, 12, how to hold a shotgun at a shooting range in Houston, Texas, May 19, 2013.
“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one? What if Congress did something – anything – to protect our kids from gun violence?” the president added.
Months before terrorist-inspired carnage in San Bernardino, California, and the shooting rampage at an Oregon community college, the White House began studying actions the president could take to reduce gun violence. Those steps are expected to be finalized at a meeting Monday between Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Attack on gun rights
Republicans are already decrying what they see as an attack on Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.
“We’re going to save the Second Amendment. There’s a big assault on the Second Amendment,” said Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump late Saturday at a rally in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Trump argued that gun-toting civilians could have defended themselves from terrorists in San Bernardino – and in France.
“You know what they (terrorists) did in Paris? ‘Get over here.’ Boom. ‘Get over here.’ Boom. ‘Get over here.’ Boom. They (victims) were total sitting ducks,” Trump said, mimicking the firing of a gun with his pointed finger at the crowd.
FILE - Chicago police display some of the thousands of illegal firearms they have confiscated in 2014 in their battle against gun violence in Chicago, July 7, 2014.
Democrats are far more receptive to gun control.
“The American people have been horrified by the mass shootings we have seen over the last couple of years,” said Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on ABC’s This Week program.
“We should expand and strengthen the instant background check so that people who should not have guns – criminals and people with mental health issues – should not own guns. I think that is what the president is trying to do,” Sanders added.
Legal challenges to an executive order are all but certain. Presidential action bypassing Congress on another thorny topic, immigration, sparked court battles that could continue for the remainder of Obama’s term in office.