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Obama May Bypass Congress To Expand Gun Background Checks

President Barack Obama is reportedly considering bypassing Congress and using his executive authority to impose new background-check requirements for buyers who purchase weapons from high-volume gun dealers.

Obama asked his team “to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” according to The Washington Post.

The new law would require dealers who exceed a certain number of sales per year to acquire a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and perform background checks on their potential customers.

Obama’s decision comes in the wake of the latest mass shooting this year at Umpqua Community College. He will be in Roseburg, Oregon, on Oct. 9 to meet with the survivors and families of those killed in the shooting.

“We are hopeful we can find a way to do this,” a senior official said regarding Obama’s stricter background checks requirement. He added that lawyers were still reviewing the details to make sure the rule could pass legally.

“It’s a lot more clear today than it was a year ago how to work this out,” the senior official said.

National Rifle Association (NRA) spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said it is not necessary to change the current law on background checks for high-volume dealers.

“People who repeatedly sell large volumes of firearms are already covered in the current statute because they are already defined as ‘engaged in the business,’” Baker said.

However, the new rule that Obama is pushing for would clarify what it means to be "engaged in the business." Under the current federal law, those determined to be "engaged in the business" must obtain a license and conduct background checks. However, anyone who "makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms," is exempt from this law. 

If Obama's proposed rule is enacted, dealers who exceed a certain number of sales each year would be categorized as "engaged in the business."

Obama has support from Senate Democrats to reform gun control background checks.

On Oct. 7, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan sent a letter to their Senate colleagues outlining the reforms they want to see happen, which include the closing of background check loopholes, expanding the background check database, and tightening regulations on illegal gun purchases, NBC News reports.

They said during a press conference on Oct. 8 that personal conversations with families and friends of mass shooting victims helped emphasize the need for “sensible gun reform legislation.”

As part of their proposal, people would not be allowed to buy firearms without a completed background check.

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia said he was moved to support the plan after his daughters asked him, “What are you going to do to stop this?” 

The letter noted that the changes would “bolster the background check system by strengthening it and stopping those who try to evade it.”

It also calls for “shutting down the illegal pipeline of guns,” specifically the act of straw purchasing wherein one person buys a firearm for another who is not legally allowed to make the purchase.

Domestic Abusers would also be banned from purchasing firearms under the proposal.

"If we're going to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, then we've got to stand up as law-abiding gun owners," Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of Virginia said.

He added that Democrats have sometimes “gone way too far … on things they've wanted to ban," but that gun reform was "common sense."

Sources: The Washington Post, NBC News / Photo Source: The U.S. Army/Flickr, Mika Jarvinen/Flickr


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