‘This is not a plot’

Tear­ful, an­gry Obama an­nounces new rules for gun buy­ing

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, at one point wip­ing tears from his cheek, un­veiled his plan Tues­day to tighten con­trol and en­force­ment of firearms in the U.S., us­ing his pres­i­den­tial pow­ers in the ab­sence of le­gal changes he im­plored Congress to pass.

Obama ac­cused the gun lobby of tak­ing Congress hostage, but said “they can­not hold Amer­ica hostage.” He in­sisted it was pos­si­ble to up­hold the Sec­ond Amend­ment while do­ing some­thing to tackle the fre­quency of mass shoot­ings in the U.S. that he said had be­come “the new nor­mal.”

“This is not a plot to take away ev­ery­body’s guns,” Obama said in a cer­e­mony in the East Room. “You pass a back­ground check, you pur­chase a firearm. The prob­lem is some gun sell­ers have been op­er­at­ing un­der a dif­fer­ent set of rules.”

Obama wiped tears away as he re­called the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School. He paid trib­ute to the par­ents, some of whom gath­ered for the cer­e­mony, who he said had never imag­ined their child’s life would be cut short by a bul­let.

“Ev­ery time I think those kids, it gets me Obama said.

At the cen­ter­piece of Obama’s plan is a more sweep­ing def­i­ni­tion of gun deal­ers that the ad­min­is­tra­tion hopes will ex­pand the num­ber of sales sub­ject to back­ground checks. Un­der cur­rent law, only fed­er­ally li­censed gun deal­ers must con­duct back­ground checks on buy­ers. But at gun shows, web­sites and flea mar­kets, sell­ers of­ten skirt that re­quire­ment by de­clin­ing to reg­is­ter as li­censed deal­ers.

Aim­ing to nar­row that loop­hole, the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives is is­su­ing up­dated guidance that says about mad,” the gov­ern­ment should deem any­one “in the busi­ness” of sell­ing guns to be a dealer, re­gard­less of where he or she sells the guns. To that end, the gov­ern­ment will con­sider other fac­tors, in­clud­ing how many guns a per­son sells, how fre­quently, and whether those guns are sold for a profit.

The White House also put gun sell­ers on no­tice that the ad­min­is­tra­tion planned to strengthen en­force­ment — in­clud­ing de­ploy­ing 230 new ex­am­in­ers the FBI will hire to process back­ground checks.

The im­pact of Obama’s plan on gun violence re­mains a ma­jor ques­tion, and one not eas­ily an­swered. Had the rules been in place in the past, the steps wouldn’t likely have pre­vented any of the re­cent mass shoot­ings that have gar­nered na­tional at­ten­tion. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ac­knowl­edged it couldn’t quan­tify how many gun sales would be newly sub­jected to back­ground checks, nor how many cur­rently un­reg­is­tered gun sell­ers would have to ob­tain a li­cence.

Push­ing back on that cri­tique, Obama said ev­ery time the is­sue is de­bated, gun rights groups ar­gue the steps wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily have stopped the last mas­sacre, “so why bother try­ing?”

“I re­ject that think­ing,” Obama said, ar­gu­ing it would be worth it if the mea­sures would pre­vent even a sin­gle gun death. “We maybe can’t save ev­ery­body, but we could save some.”

To lend a per­sonal face to the is­sue, the White House as­sem­bled a cross-sec­tion of Amer­i­cans whose lives were al­tered by the na­tion’s most sear­ing re­cent gun tragedies, in­clud­ing for­mer Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords and rel­a­tives of vic­tims from Charleston, S.C., at Vir­ginia Tech.

Mark Bar­den, whose son was shot to death at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School, in­tro­duced the pres­i­dent with a dec­la­ra­tion that “we are bet­ter than this.”

Obama’s ac­tions carved a pre­dictably par­ti­san fault line through the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Hil­lary Clin­ton and Bernie San­ders, both com­pet­ing for the nom­i­na­tion from Obama’s party, praised the pres­i­dent and pledged to build on his ac­tions if elected.

The Repub­li­can field formed a cho­rus of voices vow­ing to an­nul the whole pack­age, with Marco Ru­bio claim­ing Obama was “Obama is ob­sessed with un­der­min­ing the Sec­ond Amend­ment.”

In Congress, Democrats and Repub­li­cans sim­i­larly lined up on op­po­site sides. House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Obama was act­ing within his “clear author­ity,” but echoed his call for Congress to fin­ish the job.

But House Speaker Paul Ryan pre­dicted a cer­tain chal­lenge in the courts.

“Rather than fo­cus on crim­i­nals and ter­ror­ists, he goes af­ter the most law-abid­ing of cit­i­zens,” said Ryan, R-Wis. “His words and ac­tions amount to a form of in­tim­i­da­tion that un­der­mines lib­erty.”

AP PHOTO

His cheek wet with tears, U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama Pres­i­dent Barack Obama re­calls the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School, while speak­ing in the East Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton Tues­day about steps his ad­min­is­tra­tion is tak­ing to re­duce gun violence.

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