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Moved to Act

Obama gets emotional on gun control

1/5/2016, 9:09 p.m.
President Barack Obama moved Tuesday to use his executive authority to require all gun sellers to register as dealers — ...
President Obama gets emotional as he speaks Tuesday on reducing gun violence during a meeting at the White House. AP Photo

(AP) — President Barack Obama moved Tuesday to use his executive authority to require all gun sellers to register as dealers — even those who sell at gun shows and online — and to run background checks on all prospective purchasers, aiming to curb a scourge of gun violence despite unyielding opposition to new gun laws in Congress.

Obama defended the measures at an event at the White House, insisting they fall within his legal authority and uphold the Second Amendment right to own a gun. He grew visibly emotional when he recalled the murders of 20 first graders and six staffers three years ago by a gunman with an assault rifle at a grade school in Newton, Conn.

"Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad," Obama said as his eyes welled-up with tears. "And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day."

In a bid to narrow the so-called gun show loophole, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will issue updated guidance that says the government can consider someone a gun dealer regardless of where he or she sells the guns, officials said.

Only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers, and gun control advocates say people who sell guns outside of gun stores exploit that provision to skirt the background check requirement.

Obama's executive actions on gun control fall short of what some gun control advocates have called for, but nevertheless sparked a confrontation with Republicans and gun rights groups that oppose new impediments to buying guns.

"We're very comfortable that the president can legally take these actions now," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

In an attempt to prevent gun purchases from falling through the cracks, the FBI will hire 230 more examiners to process background checks, the White House said. The FBI has a computerized system that can process background checks for many in seconds. But in instances where the FBI needs more time, the government only has three days before prospective buyers can return and buy the gun without being cleared.

"This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country," Obama said. Still, he added, "It will potentially save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses."