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Obama moves to require background checks for more gun sales


    Attorney General Loretta Lynch listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, during a meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss executive actions the president can take to curb gun violence. The president is slated to finalize a set of new executive actions tightening U.S. gun laws, kicking off his last year in office with a clear signal that he intends to prioritize one of the country’s most intractable issues.


    Attorney General Loretta Lynch listens as President Barack Obama speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, during a meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss executive actions the president can take to curb gun violence. The president is slated to finalize a set of new executive actions tightening U.S. gun laws, kicking off his last year in office with a clear signal that he intends to prioritize one of the country’s most intractable issues.

WASHINGTON >> President Barack Obama moved Monday to expand background checks to cover more firearms sold at gun shows, online and anywhere else, aiming to curb a scourge of gun violence despite unyielding opposition to new laws in Congress.

Obama’s plan to broaden background checks forms the centerpiece of a broader package of gun control measures the president plans to take on his own in his final year in office. Although Obama can’t unilaterally change gun laws, the president is hoping that beefing up enforcement of existing laws can prevent at least some gun deaths in a country rife with them.

“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.”

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 and how frequently, and whether those guns are sold for a profit.

The executive actions on gun control fall far short of what Obama and likeminded lawmakers attempted to accomplish with legislation in 2013, after a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that shook the nation’s conscience. Even still, the more modest measures were sure to spark legal challenges from those who oppose any new impediments to buying guns.

“We’re very comfortable that the president can legally take these actions,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Obama’s announcement was hailed by Democratic lawmakers and gun control groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which claimed Obama was making history with “bold and meaningful action” that would make all Americans safer. Hillary Clinton, at a rally in Iowa, said she was “so proud” of Obama but warned that the next president could easily undo his changes.

“I won’t wipe it away,” Clinton said.

But Republicans were quick to accuse Obama of gross overreach. Sen Bob Corker, R-Tenn., denounced Obama’s steps as “divisive and detrimental to real solutions.”

“I will work with my colleagues to respond appropriately to ensure the Constitution is respected,” Corker said.

Far from mandating background checks for all gun sales, 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 a handful of guns.

And the background check provision rests in the murky realm of agency guidelines, which have less force than full-fledged federal regulations and can easily be rescinded. Many of the Republican presidential candidates running to succeed Obama have vowed to rip up his new gun restrictions upon taking office.

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, an increase of about 50 percent. Many of the roughly 63,000 background check requests each day are processed within seconds. But if the system kicks back a request for further review, the government only has three days before federal law says the buyer can return and buy the gun without being cleared.

That weak spot in the system came under scrutiny last summer when the FBI revealed that Dylann Roof, the accused gunman in the Charleston, S.C., church massacre, was improperly allowed to buy a gun because incomplete record-keeping and miscommunication among authorities delayed processing of his background check beyond the three-day limit.

The White House also said it planned to ask Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care, and Obama issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to conduct or sponsor research into smart gun technology that reduces the risk of accidental gun discharges. The Obama administration also plans to complete a rule, already in the works, to close another loophole that allows trusts or corporations to purchase sawed-off shotguns, machine guns and similar weapons without background checks.

Obama planned to announce the new measures at an event at the White House on Tuesday as he continued a weeklong push to promote the gun effort and push back on its critics.

He met at the White House on Monday with Democratic lawmakers who have supported stricter gun control, and planned to take his argument to prime time Thursday with a televised town hall discussion. The initiative also promised to be prominent in Obama’s final State of the Union address next week.

Whether the new steps will effectively prevent future gun deaths remained unclear. Philip Cook, a Duke University professor who researches gun violence and policy, said surveys of prisoners don’t show gun shows to be a major direct source of weapons used in violent crime. The attorney general, asked how many dealers would be newly forced to register, declined to give a number.

“It’s just impossible to predict,” Lynch said.

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  • Trust him? Again ? Such as you can keep your plan, or that the ACA will improve health insurance? Let’s hear the new EO’s and then yes we will measure it against the standard that is the Constitution.

  • It all depends on how you define “shall not be infringed.”. You know, like Clinton asking how you define the word “is”.
    Bunch a power grabbing morons.

    • It’s about how you define “well-regulated militia” and the modern necessity of it if any- the mouth-breathers always seem to forget that part.

  • That’s ok, the new President will repeal all of his juvenile Executive Orders…(Yeah, they can do that…so awesome!) Time for this big-eared, ignorant, terrorist-loving, cop-hating buffoon to hit the bricks.

  • A gun owning friend of mine was complaining about this already. Until I pointed out how he himself was always saying there should be more background checks of people, and how he’d always hated the “gun show exception” for that very reason. He agreed that was his view. Would any of that keep him from being able to buy a gun? He conceded it wouldn’t; he regularly buys guns/ammo from licensed dealers and had no problem undergoing a background himself. So what was the problem? “I guess there isn’t one,” he said, then laughed, “I guess people just like to complain about Obama.”

    • Gimme a break! No self respecting gun owner would say that there should be “more background checks”. Those in the know are well aware that these “background checks” do absolutely nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

      • There should be more complete background checks nationwide. (there, I said it) Hawaii’s laws are more effective than most and do not provide an unnecessary restriction on responsible firearm purchase and ownership.

        It’s really hard to argue that we as a society, should not try to prevent criminals, domestic abusers, the mentally unstable, substance abusers and those with otherwise diminished competence from acquiring firearms and ammunition.

        • On an everyday level that would affect many, many citizens, in many jurisdictions closing the so-called loophole would require a parent to run a formal background check on a son or daughter (or any other blood kin) before passing on a gun as an outright gift or selling it for a token amount. There is also the issue of repetitive background checks required for purchasers who already own one or more guns; it is frequently the case where owners of even “arsenals” are still required to undergo background checks to secure a new purchase. It’s extremely difficult to conceive of good reasons to perpetuate this practice – unless one firmly believes such gun owners will find it necessary to buy a new gun when contemplating committing murder or mayhem.

  • This is also going to fuel the fire in Oregon regarding Federal over reach. Most people in Oregon don’t agree with the activists but they are disappointed in the Federal government. It was evident when he went to Roseburghe Ore. Lots of gun advocates showed up to protest. See some one forgot to tell him it was deer hunting season and deer is big here.lots of people in Roseburg are just making ends meet and depend on hunting and fishing. They don’t like it when the government, State and Federal, say when, where, how, and how many.

  • Will have to see the exact wording of this “executive action” but federal law (Firearms Owner Protection Act of 1986) defines what it means to be a “dealer in firearms” (and hence, requiring a license) as a person who “devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms”. The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993 provides that only licensees (including dealers) are required to conduct a background check (aka NICS or state POC check) prior to transfer. Of course in Hawaii HRS Chap 134 mandates a permit to acquire for everyone, so it is immaterial to us.

  • This is confusing effort with results. How many times do we hear “we have to do something .” Nothing being proposed would have curtailed any of the mass casualty incidents driving this nonsense.

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