News / USA

    Obama Rolls Out 'Common-sense' Gun Control Actions

    Obama Takes Gun Control Case to American Peoplei
    Mary Alice Salinas
    January 06, 2016 6:19 PM
    U.S. President Barack Obama says that America is the most advanced country in the world, yet gun violence claims more lives in the U.S. than any other advanced nation. During an impassioned address at the White House on Tuesday, Obama outlined his plan to address the problem. VOA White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas has more.
    William GalloCindy Saine

    President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced a series of new "common-sense" measures meant to reduce gun violence, bypassing Congress on the controversial issue.

    Obama rolled out the new policies during a White House address, where he chided lawmakers for failing to enact tighter gun control measures despite a wave of recent mass shootings and called on them and the American people to “find the courage to do more.”

    "We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency," said Obama, who was surrounded by victims of recent gun attacks. “It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”

    'People are dying'

    "People are dying. And the constant excuses for inaction will no longer suffice," he said. "That's why we're here today — not to discuss the last mass shooting, but to prevent the next one."

    The executive actions will require more gun sellers to get licenses and more gun buyers to undergo background checks. The plan will also tighten enforcement of existing gun laws, and it asks Congress to invest $500 million to improve access to mental health care. 

    In addition, the Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments will research “smart gun technology” in the hope of preventing accidental shootings by children and to help identify lost or stolen guns.

    "We know we can't stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we can stop one act of evil, one act of violence," said Obama, who at times appeared emotional.

    At one point, the president became emotional as he recalled the 20 young children and six others who were killed in a 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

    "First-graders!" he said. Tears ran down his cheek as he added, "Every time I think about those kids, it makes me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”

    Critics argue that gun control measures will do nothing to reduce violence and are a threat to Americans' right to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Obama rejected those claims, saying, "This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns."

    Furthermore, he noted, it was the rights of people killed in recent mass shootings in the U.S. that were violated.

    Referring to some of those massacres, the president said, “Our right to worship freely and safely – that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.”

    Obama, a Democrat, for months has said he was looking into ways to reduce gun violence unilaterally without having to go through a Congress led by his Republican rivals who defeated his earlier, more ambitious gun control proposals.

    Obama said the new rules fall "well within" his legal authority as president.

    WATCH: Candidates speak out on gun control

    Candidates Speak Out on Gun Controli
    January 05, 2016 2:46 PM
    Republican, Democratic presidential candidates Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio weigh in on the gun control issue.

    GOP reaction

    Republicans, who generally oppose gun control measures, reacted angrily to the president's proposals. Many Republican presidential candidates said they would reverse the rules if elected.

    GOP front-runner Donald Trump told CNN on Monday that Obama's proposals were the first step toward tighter restrictions on gun owners, saying: "Pretty soon you won't be able to get guns. It's another step in the way of not getting guns."

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, called the proposals a "dangerous level of executive overreach" and said the president was "at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will."

    Ryan also contended that Obama's plan “goes after the most law-abiding of citizens,” rather than after criminals and terrorists.

    “No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment,” Ryan said. “We will conduct vigilant oversight.”

    Due process concerns

    Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said he worried that the president’s actions could encroach on due process by giving the government the power to deny gun ownership to those it considered mentally incompetent.

    In a statement, Goodlatte said, “The House Judiciary Committee will closely monitor the administration’s actions and consider whether legislation is needed to further protect Americans’ constitutional rights.”

    In the Senate, the lead Republican sponsor of legislation that would expand background checks for gun sales criticized Obama for taking action on the issue without Congress. 

    Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said, “The president has abused these actions in the past and exceeded the boundaries of the law. This should not be allowed under our constitutional framework.”

    Toomey worked with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia in 2013 on a bill that would have expanded background checks for all gun purchases, but it was unable to get the 60 votes needed to advance.

    Past time to act

    Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, embraced the president’s gun safety measures. 

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said, “The vast majority of Americans support common sense action to reduce gun violence.”

    She and many other Democratic members of Congress said it was past time for Congress to act to curb what they called an “epidemic” of gun violence.

    The National Rifle Association, a powerful gun rights lobbying group, also vowed to look into the new rules to see whether it would challenge them in court. However, an NRA spokeswoman quoted in The New York Times appeared to downplay the significance of the measures.

    "This is it, really?" said NRA official Jennifer Baker, according to the Times. "This is what they've been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal they've spent seven years putting together? They're not really doing anything."

    An audience member holds a hand lettered sign calling for further gun control at a campaign stop with U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Nashua, New Hampshire Oct. 16, 2015.
    An audience member holds a hand lettered sign calling for further gun control at a campaign stop with U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Nashua, New Hampshire Oct. 16, 2015.

    More background checks

    One key element of Obama's plan is a measure that will widen the definition of a gun dealer. The White House hopes this will require more businesses selling firearms, including those at gun shows, to get licenses and therefore be required to conduct background checks.

    "We intend to make this system more efficient and make it more comprehensive," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch. "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 also includes increasing by 50 percent the number of FBI personnel who staff the national background check system, said Lynch.

    Demonstrators participate in an anti-gun violence rally sponsored by One Million Moms for Gun Control in New York, Jan. 21, 2013.
    Demonstrators participate in an anti-gun violence rally sponsored by One Million Moms for Gun Control in New York, Jan. 21, 2013.

    Public opinion

    Recent polls show an increase in the number of Americans who support background checks on those seeking to purchase firearms.

    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, firearms claim the lives of more than 30,000 Americans in mass killings, suicides, domestic violence and other incidents, according to the White House.

    VOA's Mary Alice Salinas contributed to this report. Cindy Saine contributed from Capitol Hill.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Paige
    January 06, 2016 1:31 PM
    Sometimes I think people who comment on these articles are working for a gun organization or company.

    by: Henry Harff from: Ohio, USA
    January 05, 2016 9:06 PM
    If gun control is so great, why does Chicago, which has the strictest gun control laws in the nation, have the epidemic gun related deaths that it does? The same can be said for Detroit and New York City.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    January 05, 2016 8:11 PM
    I think Hillary Clinton needs a background check and I think the FBI is doing one on her right now sifting through tens of thousands of e-mails she thought she had destroyed. If you are too dangerous to be trusted with the national security of the United States as Secretary of State, you are too dangerous to be trusted with it as President of the United States.

    by: Alice from: Canada
    January 05, 2016 4:38 PM
    The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an amendment: it was not originally part of the constitution and should and can be altered or removed. It appears that some Americans believe that the Second Amendment is part of the Ten Commandments. It is not. Save lives and change or remove the Second Amendment.

    by: Tommy Tinkleweewee from: Maine
    January 05, 2016 2:37 PM
    Obama’s tears during a press conference on gun control were faked as a way to pander to the emotions of Americans on gun violence. Our so-called president, would love to squash the 2nd amendment and make the sheep bow to mother government. He's more than likely on pharmeceutical drugs.
    In Response

    by: Doug from: Canada
    January 05, 2016 8:40 PM
    Alice you must understand that Canada never had a gun culture so passing tough gun control laws here was easy for most Canadians supported them. However in the US the right to own guns is very deeply ingrained into American society and has been since the nation was founded 240 years ago after using guns to win and keep their independence.And yes to many gun owners the 2nd amendment is akin to the
    10 commandments and any attempt to abolished it would only lead to civil war.
    "FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS" is the American gun owners mantra and they are DEADLY SERIOUS and neither you or I want a civil war. And while I agree that much more needs to be done to reduce the senseless gun violence the American people and not you or me as foreigners will decide what is right course for their nation.
    In Response

    by: Alice from: Canada
    January 05, 2016 4:48 PM
    And you are either an undertaker or work for the gun manufacturers. No other advanced western democracy has the equivalent of the US Second Amendment. It is not needed. I do not see why if the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and Sweden etc do not have such a law the US needs one in 2016? It is an amendment that was put in the constitution at a time and place when it might have made sense. It no longer does. Americans are shooting each other at an alarming rate. Show courage and amend the amendment!

    by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
    January 05, 2016 2:20 PM
    I have been shot numerous times in my life. I don't handle guns as I am myself unable to control the impulse to use physical weapons in a conflict. I believe that Obama's orders on gun control are reasonable and prudent. I would say however that I find the argument that the right to bear arms to protect democracy. I find it a convincing argument raised by some such as Larry Pratt that the US owes much to this right to gun ownership which acts to protect against state abuse of the civil liberties of its citizens.

    However, I don't see that this should mean that those deemed mentally or criminally unfit to own guns cannot be restricted so as to lose their right to gun ownership. This loss of the right to gun ownership only affects a small minority of total gun owners and is not a threat to the general right to own guns.

    by: Ricardo from: Brazil
    January 05, 2016 12:30 PM
    The executive actions do not aim deceive people neither overcome the US Constitution. The aim of the bill is just organize the sale of arms in the U.S., It is necessary to define who can sale and check background of those who want to buy guns.

    Unfortunately, these measures will make little or no effect in practice, given that the overwhelming majority of people will be allowed to buy guns, and those with criminal record gonna buy it on the black market.
    In Response

    by: Ricardo from: Brazil
    January 05, 2016 2:00 PM
    Unfortunately, the biggest impact of Obama's new Measures will be in relation to his image, who will be remembered as what "the one who tried to stop the sale of weapons in the U.S."

    Obama is doing a good job, he boosted the economy, increased employment rate, kept the American debt under control, signed treaties of international trade, removed the Iraqi ground troops, helped reduce illegal immigration in the United States and Europe , resumed relations with Cuba and, even in this last year of his term he has a high level of acceptance. Few presidents have done so much.

    It's time to prevent unnecessary wear his image. It's time to do what can be done; what gives results. It's time to preserving his legacy and his image intact, to serve as a model for future generations.

    by: Ernest Meyer from: United States
    January 05, 2016 12:26 PM
    Meanwhile gun-violence cost is so high, every American household could receive a permanent $700 tax credit paid for by a gun-violence tax, based only on violence with legal guns. The gun-violence tax goes down when violence goes down, creating consensus on sensible gun control:

    Includes all public gun-violence-cost data available. a table of 1300 objections with answers, 100 linked references, several dozen graphs, four sidebar articles, and a PDF version.

    by: Mrs. Dickweiner from: NY
    January 05, 2016 10:45 AM
    Meanwhile, Obama’s Press Secretary once again cited misleading statistics on gun violence to get the point across. While he claimed that there are 30,000 gun deaths a year in the US, Josh Earnest neglected to point out that 20,000 are those are suicides, and that justified shootings, and gang related shootings are also lumped in with those figures.

    GOP presidential contender Rand Paul reacted to the announcements on executive gun control by saying he will “fight Obama tooth and nail” on the issue. “The Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights and it is as important as the rest of the Bill of Rights. It is not some odd duckling out there. And the media, I don’t think, would be reporting Obama’s actions the same way if, by executive order, he was going to make journalists register.” Paul told Breitbart News.

    “In fact, if Obama was planning infringement of the First Amendment, the media would be going crazy. But we should never let any president abbreviate any part of the Bill of Rights. No matter what amendment it is, we should never allow it to be abbreviated by executive order.” Paul added. The Libertarian leaning Senator has introduced legislation that would render any action on gun legislation by the president which circumvents Congress as “advisory only” in nature.

    by: Crsandont Wantto from: USA
    January 05, 2016 10:26 AM
    When will Americans stop falling prey to the hype the MSM purveys to them? Do your own research. See if you can find any of these gun stories where the perp or perp's were not either on prescribed psychoactive med's or had just been taken off them. Drug companies and MD's with their greed for profits and return business are responsible for more deaths yearly than guns and illegal drugs combined!
    In Response

    by: Mona Phlegmburp from: Los Alamos
    January 05, 2016 1:58 PM
    Yeah, your missing something, alright. WAKE UP!!!
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    January 05, 2016 1:09 PM
    Am I missing something? Obama is suggesting better background checks so these people can't get guns. And the San Bernardino perpetrators were not psychotic. You're entirely missing the point. If your background check is good, you can keep your arsenal.
    In Response

    by: Todd Bonercock from: LA
    January 05, 2016 10:46 AM
    Glad someone is AWAKE!!!!

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