U.S. President Barack Obama will discuss his new initiatives to curb gun violence in remarks Tuesday at the White House, as he works to detail to Americans the executive orders he says will not step on Constitutional rights.
Some of the measures, first announced by the White House on Monday, include expanded background checks, more effective enforcement of gun laws, increased mental health treatment and reporting to the national background check system, and more research into gun safety technology.
Obama presented the recommendations discussed during a White House meeting Monday with top officials including U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey.
“The good news is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch,” said Obama after the meeting. “But they are also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in.”
One key element of the plan includes requiring any business selling firearms, including at gun shows, to get a license and conduct background checks.
“We intend to make this system more efficient and make it more comprehensive,” said Lynch on Monday. “The goal is keeping bad actors away from firearms and also to make it easier for authorities to make sure that the gun laws are properly followed and enforced.”
Part of the effort includes increasing by 50 percent the number of FBI personnel who staff the national background check system, said Lynch.
Recent polls show an increase in the number of Americans who support background checks on those seeking to purchase a firearm. Among other actions, the White House is pushing for stricter background checks.
A new survey by Webster's research center found that 85 percent of gun owners believe there should be background checks for every individual seeking to buy a gun.
Each year, tens of thousands of people are killed by guns in the United States, including in mass shootings and suicides, committed at far greater rates than in other countries around the world, said the president.
The Republican-led Congress opposes more restrictions on gun ownership, and any actions planned by the president likely will face legal challenges.
House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized the president’s plan Monday, saying the underlying cause of gun violence is mental illness, and that the gun control measures advocated by the White House will not stop such attacks. Ryan pointed out that Congress has rejected gun control measures supported by the White House.
“The president is at minimum subverting the legislative branch and potentially overturning its will,” said the Republican congressman. “The American people deserve a president who will respect their constitutional rights - all of them.”
But Obama insisted the gun control initiatives he plans are within his power to implement.
The recommendations are “entirely consistent with the second amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms,” Obama said. “We have been very careful recognizing that although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership in this country, that even those who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection and for other legitimate reasons want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons.”
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Chris Hannas contributed to this report.