Obama's plan to broaden gun control measures shows limit of acting alone

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama's do-it-himself plan for keeping guns away from those who shouldn't have them falls far short of what he'd hoped to accomplish through legislation after a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School shook the country to attention in 2012.

See Full Article

Yet even the more modest steps Obama will announce Tuesday rely on murky interpretations of existing law that could be easily reversed by his successor.

At the centrepiece of Obama's plan, to be unveiled at a White House event with gun violence victims, is a more sweeping definition of gun dealers that the administration hopes will expand the number of gun sales subject to background checks. At gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often skirt that requirement by declining to register as licensed dealers, but officials said new federal guidance would clarify that it applies to anyone "in the business" of selling firearms.

They put sellers on notice that the government planned to strengthen enforcement -- including deploying 230 new examiners the FBI will hire to process background checks.

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

Obama's package of executive actions aims to curb what he's described as a scourge of gun violence in the U.S., punctuated by appalling mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Charleston, South Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona, among many others. After Newtown, Obama sought far-reaching, bipartisan legislation that went beyond background checks.

When the effort collapsed in the Senate, the White House said it was thoroughly researching the president's powers to identify every legal step he could take on his own.

A more recent spate of gun-related atrocities, including in San Bernardino, California, shootings have spurred the administration to give the issue another look, as Obama seeks to make good on a policy issue that he's elevated time and again but has failed until now to advance.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other top officials declined to explain why Obama hadn't taken these steps years ago and whether the administration had contemplated these actions in the past but determined Obama didn't have the authority.

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

After formally announcing the package Tuesday, Obama planned to continue the weeklong push to promote the gun effort with a prime time, televised town hall discussion Thursday. The initiative also promised to be prominent in Obama's final State of the Union address next week.

Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers, but many who sell guns at flea markets, on websites or in other informal settings don't register as dealers. Gun control advocates say that loophole is exploited to skirt the background check requirement.

Now, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will issue updated guidance that says 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 background check provision rests in the murky realm of agency "guidelines," which carry less weight than formally issued federal regulations and can easily be rescinded. Lynch said the administration chose to clarify guidelines because it allowed the policies to be implemented immediately. Left unsaid was the fact that developing regulations would have dragged out likely until Obama's presidency ends and would have generated more opportunities for Republicans to intervene.

Hillary Clinton, at a rally in Iowa, said she was proud of Obama's efforts, but warned that the next president could easily undo his changes.

"I won't wipe it away," Clinton said.

Republicans were quick to accuse Obama of gross overreach. Many of the Republican presidential candidates have vowed to rip up new Obama gun restrictions upon taking office, and some lawmakers are contemplating withholding Justice Department funds if it tries to implement them.

"I will work with my colleagues to respond appropriately to ensure the Constitution is respected," said Sen Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

The new guidance still exempts collectors and gun hobbyists, and the exact definition of who must register as a dealer and conduct background checks remains exceedingly vague. The administration did not issue a number for how many guns someone must sell to be considered a dealer, instead saying it planned to remind people that courts have deemed people to be dealers in some cases even if they only sell one or two guns.

The White House said it planned to ask Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care. Obama also issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to conduct or sponsor research into smart gun technology that reduces the risk of accidental gun discharges.

------

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Ken Thomas in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

------

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/author/josh-lederman

08:35ET 05-01-16



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Police response to Texas school shooting remains unclear

    World News CTV News
    AUSTIN, Texas -- Santa Fe High School had conducted active shooter drills, armed police officers patrolled the hallways and students went through a scare in February after a false report of a campus gunman. But in the aftermath of the deadliest public school shooting in Texas history, early witness accounts and recordings from emergency dispatch describe a 30-minute nightmare as the real thing unfolded last week, even as authorities continued to keep details close Sunday. Source
  • Several Atlantic fisheries closed due to presence of two right whales

    Canada News CTV News
    MONCTON, N.B. -- Federal authorities are closing several fisheries in the Gulf of St. Lawrence because of the presence of North Atlantic right whales. In a statement posted on Twitter, Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc says two of the severely endangered animals have been spotted off the coast of New Brunswick. Source
  • Ontario New Democrats forced to admit to annual $1.4-billion costing error

    Canada News CTV News
    PETERBOROUGH, Ont. -- Ontario's New Democrats, often accused of fiscal incompetence, made a $1.4-billion annual costing mistake in their election platform, the party's leader was forced to admit on Sunday. The miscounting of a $700-million annual reserve fund as revenue rather than as an expense will affect deficit projections for several years, Leader Andrea Horwath conceded. Source
  • Victims of alleged LSD brainwashing experiments in Montreal plan to file lawsuit

    Canada News CTV News
    Survivors and families of those who allegedly underwent brainwashing experiments at McGill University in Montreal are planning a class-action lawsuit against the Quebec and federal governments because of what they claim had been done to them decades ago. Source
  • Kayakers take Kinder Morgan protest offshore in U.S.

    Canada News CBC News
    More than 200 kilometres south of where the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is slated to end, environmental groups in the U.S. took to the water in Seattle on Sunday to add their voices to ongoing opposition to the project. Source
  • Sask. couple swept away by B.C. mountain landslide can't believe they're alive

    Canada News CBC News
    Saskatchewan couple Sheri Niemegeers and Gabe Rosescu do not remember much after the wall of mud and trees came hurtling down a steep mountain pass toward their vehicle. But, according to Rosescu's sister Andrea, they both recall the split second when they realized they were in the path of a landslide. Source
  • Cyclists near Seattle tried to scare cougar but it attacked, killing 1

    World News CTV News
    SEATTLE - The two mountain bikers did what they were supposed to do when they noticed a mountain lion tailing them on a trail east of Seattle. They got off their bikes. They faced the beast, shouted and tried to spook it. Source
  • 'I could have ID'd him': Woman says Dominican resort didn't investigate claim that she was raped by staffer

    Canada News CBC News
    A Toronto-area woman says she is going public to warn travellers, after a security guard at a Dominican Republic resort raped her and the hotel "did nothing" to investigate — an occurrence she believes is all too common. Source
  • Canadian vacationers stranded in Cuba following plane crash

    Canada News CTV News
    In the wake of a horrific plane crash in Cuba that claimed the lives of 110 people, dozens of Canadians are now stranded in the country, wondering when they will be able to fly home. Source
  • Police video shows harrowing escapes from California fires

    World News CTV News
    SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Chaotic police body-camera footage from last year's deadly wildfires in Northern California's wine country shows officers running door-to-door urging people to flee and rescuing elderly residents of a retirement community as flames bear down, according to a newspaper report Sunday. Source