Obama to take ac­tion on guns

The pro­posal likely will in­clude new back­ground checks.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Juliet Eilperin

honolulu» Pres­i­dent Barack Obama will press ahead with a set of ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions on guns next week de­spite grow­ing con­cerns in the U.S. over ter­ror­ism that have damp­ened some Amer­i­cans’ en­thu­si­asm for tighter firearms re­stric­tions.

The pres­i­dent will meet with At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch on Mon­day to fi­nal­ize a se­ries of new gun con­trol mea­sures and will an­nounce his pack­age of pro­pos­als soon af­ter that, ac­cord­ing to sev­eral in­di­vid­u­als who asked for anonymity be­cause the plan is not yet pub­lic.

One of the main pro­pos­als Obama is poised to adopt would re­quire some un­li­censed gun deal­ers to get li­censes and con­duct back­ground checks on po­ten­tial buy­ers. The change is aimed at in­for­mal deal­ers such as those who are sell­ing on­line fre­quently or rent­ing ta­bles at gun shows but do not have a store­front.

Obama be­gan ex­am­in­ing how he could tighten the na­tion’s gun rules af­ter Oc­to­ber’s mass shoot­ing at Um­pqua Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Rose­burg, Ore.

Ad­min­is­tra­tion lawyers have spent months re­view­ing var­i­ous pro­pos­als to make sure they can with­stand le­gal chal­lenges.

The idea of re­quir­ing in­for­mal gun deal­ers to ob­tain a li­cense from the Bureau of Al­co­hol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ex­plo­sives and of con­duct­ing back­ground checks came up two years ago when White House of­fi­cials drafted a pro­posal for deal­ers who sell at least 50 guns an­nu­ally. But the

idea was shelved over le­gal con­cerns and did not gain new mo­men­tum un­til af­ter the Rose­burg shoot­ing.

At that point, Hil­lary Clin­ton said she would pursue such a re­quire­ment by ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion if elected pres­i­dent. Shortly af­ter­ward, White House of­fi­cials be­gan giv­ing the idea greater scru­tiny.

So­lic­it­ing in­put

The White House re­view has been con­ducted in rel­a­tive se­crecy, so­lic­it­ing in­put from gun safety groups with­out spec­i­fy­ing which poli­cies the ad­min­is­tra­tion ul­ti­mately might adopt. In the past month, Obama has met with for­mer Rep. Gabrielle Gif­fords, D-Ariz., who was gravely in­jured in a 2011 mass shoot­ing, and her hus­band, re­tired as­tro­naut Mark Kelly, as well as with for­mer New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the pres­i­dent of Every­town for Gun Safety, which Bloomberg helped start.

In Obama’s weekly ra­dio ad­dress Fri­day, de­liv­ered a day ear­lier than usual, the pres­i­dent said he was mov­ing uni­lat­er­ally be­cause Congress had failed to ad­dress the grow­ing prob­lem of gun violence.

“A few months ago, I di­rected my team at the White House to look into any new ac­tions I can take to help re­duce gun violence,” he said. “And on Mon­day, I’ll meet with our at­tor­ney gen­eral, Loretta Lynch, to dis­cuss our op­tions.

“Be­cause I get too many let­ters from par­ents and teach­ers and kids to sit around and do noth­ing,” Obama said. “I get let­ters from re­spon­si­ble gun own­ers who grieve with us ev­ery time th­ese tragedies hap­pen, who share my be­lief that the Sec­ond Amend­ment guar­an­tees a right to bear arms and who share my be­lief we can pro­tect that right while keep­ing an ir­re­spon­si­ble, dan­ger­ous few from in­flict­ing harm on a mas­sive scale.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion, in re­view­ing its op­tions, has shut out con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, who joined with some Democrats in help­ing block leg­is­la­tion to ex­pand back­ground checks af­ter the 2012 mass shoot­ing at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in New­town, Conn.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion has not com­mu­ni­cated with us, and we have not been briefed,” said Doug An­dres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in an e-mail.

“We will con­sider op­tions once we have in­for­ma­tion, but what seems ap­par­ent is none of th­ese ideas would have pre­vented the re­cent atroc­i­ties. Our fo­cus should be on the con­sis­tent causes of th­ese acts — men­tal ill­nesses and ter­ror­ism — rather than in­fring­ing on law-abid­ing Amer­i­cans’ con­sti­tu­tional rights.”

GOP can­di­dates silent

The Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates were no­tably silent about Obama’s an­nounce­ment.

The pres­i­dent plans to make his case for ad­di­tional gun re­stric­tions in fo­rums in the com­ing month, ac­cord­ing to aides, in­clud­ing dur­ing his Jan. 12 State of the Union ad­dress.

While beef­ing up back­ground checks has strong sup­port — a Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity poll in De­cem­ber found that 89 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­ported checks for pur­chases at gun shows and for on­line sales — Obama’s ac­tions also come as Amer­i­cans have be­come more fear­ful about the prospect of ter­ror­ist strikes and are ex­press­ing an open­ness to hav­ing or­di­nary cit­i­zens carry guns.

A Wash­ing­ton Post/ABC News poll con­ducted last month in the wake of the San Bernardino, Calif., ter­ror­ist shoot­ing, for ex­am­ple, found that 53 per­cent of re­spon­dents op­posed an as­sault weapons ban, a record high. When asked which is the bet­ter re­ac­tion to ter­ror­ism, 47 per­cent said en­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to carry guns legally, while 42 per­cent pre­ferred en­act­ing stricter gun con­trol laws.

Fed­eral law re­quires those who are “en­gaged in the busi­ness” of deal­ing firearms to have a fed­eral li­cense — and, there­fore, to con­duct back­ground checks of po­ten­tial buy­ers. But it ex­empts any­one “who makes oc­ca­sional sales, ex­changes or pur­chases of firearms for the en­hance­ment of a per­sonal col­lec­tion or for a hobby or who sells all or part of his per­sonal col­lec­tion of firearms.”

It is un­clear how many pos­si­ble deals a change in the rule would af­fect, be­cause th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties are not for­mally tracked.

Also, the guns pur­chased for sev­eral re­cent mass shoot­ings — in Rose­burg and San Bernardino — were done legally, and their buy­ers were sub­ject to back­ground checks.

Every­town spokes­woman Erika Soto Lamb said the cur­rent in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what it means to be “en­gaged in the busi­ness” of sell­ing firearms is “a hazy def­i­ni­tion that al­lows high­vol­ume sell­ers to trans­fer thou­sands of guns with­out back­ground checks, no ques­tions asked.”

Back­lash as­sured

The ad­min­is­tra­tion also has been weigh­ing other pro­pos­als, in­clud­ing re­quir­ing fed­er­ally li­censed gun deal­ers to re­port any lost and stolen guns to the Na­tional Crime In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter, pub­lish­ing ag­gre­gate back­ground check de­nial data for guns sold by un­li­censed sell­ers, clar­i­fy­ing that con­victed abusers are pro­hib­ited from hav­ing guns re­gard­less of their mar­i­tal sta­tus and in­struct­ing fed­eral law en­force­ment to iden­tify and ar­rest crim­i­nals who at­tempt to buy il­le­gal guns.

Any ac­tion by the pres­i­dent is sure to trig­ger a ma­jor back­lash from gun rights activists and Repub­li­can of­fice­hold­ers na­tion­wide. Jen­nifer Baker, di­rec­tor of pub­lic af­fairs for the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, said in an e-mail that the pres­i­dent “is do­ing what he al­ways does when he doesn’t get his way, which is defy the will of the peo­ple and is­sue an ex­ec­u­tive or­der.”

“This is noth­ing more than a po­lit­i­cal stunt to ap­pease anti-gun bil­lion­aire Michael Bloomberg and will do noth­ing to in­crease pub­lic safety,” she said, adding that a dozen high-pro­file mass shoot­ers in the U.S. passed back­ground checks, in­clud­ing Jared Lough­ner, who shot Gif­fords and 19 oth­ers in Tuc­son; Dy­lann Roof in Charleston, S.C.; and James Holmes in Aurora.

Even as Obama made his ra­dio pitch, a Texas law let­ting li­censed hand­gun own­ers to carry their weapons openly in pub­lic took ef­fect.

Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott, a Repub­li­can, mocked the pres­i­dent’s lat­est push in a tweet, writ­ing, “Obama wants to im­pose more gun con­trol. My re­sponse? COME & TAKE IT.”

But groups such as MoveOn.org have be­gun to mo­bi­lize firearm own­ers to sup­port ex­panded back­ground checks and other mea­sures aimed at curb­ing gun violence.

David Mark Wil­liams, a farmer in Half­way, Ore., de­scribed guns as “a tool. If you’re hunt­ing or liv­ing a ru­ral life­style, you’re go­ing to have a firearm.” But Wil­liams, who went to Wash­ing­ton in the fall with MoveOn.org to meet with mem­bers of both par­ties, said he re­signed his NRA mem­ber­ship af­ter its pres­i­dent op­posed stricter gun laws in the af­ter­math of the Sandy Hook killings.

“I’m also a sup­porter of ra­tio­nal, rea­son­able gun con­trol mea­sures,” he said.

Arkadi Ger­ney, a se­nior fel­low at the lib­eral think tank Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, said in an e-mail Fri­day that “while pub­lic opin­ion on com­pletely ban­ning par­tic­u­lar types of guns is more mixed,” there’s no ques­tion that an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans “fa­vor pro­pos­als, like univer­sal back­ground checks, that are aimed at keep­ing guns out of the wrong hands. And, no­tably such mea­sures have been the pri­mary fo­cus of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s leg­isla­tive and ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion ef­forts.”

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