President Barack Obama unveiled new gun laws that are modest in scale but are the most substantial tightening of gun restrictions in years. The president used executive authority to enact the new laws, laying out his plans on Jan. 5.
“Although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership, even those who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection and for other legitimate reasons want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons,” Obama said during a Jan. 4 press conference, reports The Christian Post.
The announcement that the president would be unveiling new gun laws drew heavy criticism from the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, with many pointing to Obama circumventing Congress as evidence he is overstepping his authority.
“I don’t like anything to do with changing our Second Amendment,” current GOP front-runner Donald Trump said on CBS program "Face the Nation."
“If he had a compliant Democratic Congress, he would not be taking executive action,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told CBS. “Because he doesn’t, he therefore is taking action outside of that and that’s just the wrong thing to do.”
Some critics of any gun control have expressed surprise at how modest Obama’s proposals are.
“This is it, really?” Jennifer Baker, a National Rife Association lobbyist, told The New York Times. “This is what they’ve been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal that they’ve spent seven years putting together? They’re really not doing anything.”
Here is what Obama’s new actions of guns will and will not do, according to USA Today.
The new measures will recommend the hiring of more staff for the Federal Bureau of Investigation background check system, helping the department process “background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
The measures will ask Congress to use $500 million to fund the nation’s mental health care programs, a motion that Republican lawmakers have shown bipartisan support for.
The executive orders will also require online gun sellers to conduct background checks like brick-and-mortar stores already do.
The new rules require any gun seller to register and conduct background checks, a law that already exists. The president is only asking for its enforcement.
The new executive actions will not require background checks for every gun sale nationwide, will not prohibit people on “no-fly” lists from purchasing a gun and will not ban large-capacity magazines sold in bulk.
The president announced his new measures during a Jan. 5 press conference, in which he referenced Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot in the head during a mass shooting attack in 2011.
“I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn’t think at that point that she was necessarily going to survive,” Obama recalled. “I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years. Then I think of Americans who aren’t as fortunate.”
Obama also noted that Americans are not "inherently more prone to violence" than people in other countries.
"But we are the only advanced country on earth that sees this mass violence erupt with this frequency … somehow we’ve become numb to it and start thinking that this is normal," he said.
“I’m not on the ballot again," he added. "I’m not looking to score some points.”
The president then reassured defenders of the Second Amendment that he has no desire to ban all firearms in the U.S.
“I believe in the Second amendment … no matter how much people try to twist my words around,” Obama said. “I did teach constitutional law, I do know something about this.”
The president then launched into an impassioned speech about the number of mass shootings that have occurred during his administration. He described the NRA's lobbying to rebuff any new gun measures as "passionate."
"We need to be just as passionate," the president concluded.