On Tuesday, Jan. 5, President Obama outlined a series of executive actions meant to curb gun violence. Through these executive actions, the president acts on his own to accomplish what he could not persuade Congress to do.
The centerpiece of the executive action is a set of criteria designed to more clearly define who qualifies as a gun dealer. It also mandates that licensed firearms dealers must carry out background checks of potential buyers. This new mandate is meant to counter the ambiguity of existing law which allows some sellers to advertise the fact that they don’t require background checks. This makes it easy for people to purchase weapons without any scrutiny. The administration attempts to end that ambiguity by offering new guidance, a move that could significantly expand the use of background checks.
“What I asked my team to do is see what more we could do to strengthen our enforcement and prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands to make sure that criminals, people who are mentally unstable, those who could pose a danger to themselves or others, are less likely to get them,” Obama said in the afternoon of January 11.
Research from organizations against gun violence reveal shocking statistics. According to the San Francisco based “Brady Campaign”, an average of over 108,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts every year. On average 32,514 people die from gun violence, 11,294 people are murdered, 19,992 people kill themselves, and 254 die but the intent is unknown. Millions of guns are sold every year in “no questions asked” transactions. Experts estimate that 40 percent of guns now sold in America are done so without a background check.
Facing opposition from congressional Republicans, Obama has moved to enact major policy change through executive action. Such actions are vulnerable to being overturned by Congress or by future presidents, and thus less likely to stick than legislation. But the president has faced heightened pressure in recent months to impose stricter gun-control measures. A string of deadly mass shootings like the one that took place at an Oregon community college in October, and the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December, have reignited debate over national security and gun violence.
A majority of Americans support background checks for guns sold online or at gun shows, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released in December. But fears over terrorism have elevated concerns over safety and national security and sparked pushback against gun control. Despite the opposition he will be facing, president Obama remains serious on trying to find a solution to gun control before he leaves office.