Just a couple days after returning from his Hawaii vacation, President Obama will start the new year by making an announcement on gun-control executive actions tomorrow morning.
The White House announced the scheduled East Room remarks “to reduce gun violence and make our communities safe” after Obama appeared in the Oval Office today with Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“Building on the significant steps that have already been taken over the past several years, the president will discuss a series of commonsense executive actions,” the White House said of the impending announcement scheduled for Tuesday at 11:40 a.m. EST.
“Although it is my strong belief that for us to get our complete arm around the problem Congress needs to act, what I asked my team to do is to see what more we could do to strengthen our enforcement and prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands to make sure that criminals, people who are mentally unstable, those who could pose a danger to themselves or others are less likely to get them,” Obama told reporters today.
The president said he’d received ideas from Lynch and FBI Director James Comey about “initiatives that they think can make a difference.”
“And the good news is, is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe,” Obama said.
“So over the next several days, we’ll be rolling out these initiatives. We’ll be making sure that people have a very clear understanding of what can make a difference and what we can do,” he added. “And although we have to be very clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country, it’s not going to prevent every mass shooting, it’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal, it will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people.”
Obama stressed that he’s “confident that the recommendations that are being made by my team here are ones that are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms.”
“And we’ve been very careful recognizing that, although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership in this country, that even though it’s who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection, and for other legitimate reasons, I want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons,” he said.
Obama didn’t take any questions and the press pool was ushered out of the Oval Office. Lynch didn’t make any remarks.
He didn’t elaborate on his planned actions, but they’re expected to include expanding background checks for gun-show sales and easing access to mental health records for those conducting the background checks.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest admitted today that “we’re not going to be able to pass a law or take an executive action that would prevent every single incident of gun violence, but if there’s something that we can do that would prevent even one, why wouldn’t we do it?”
“And that’s the president’s mindset as he enters this meting with his attorney general and as he prepares to makes some announcements,” Earnest added.
UPDATE 6:30 p.m. EST: The White House has released a fact sheet on the executive actions. They include:
- A Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives requirement that all sellers at gun shows or on the Internet must have a license and conduct background checks.
- An ATF rule requirement those buying “some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity” to undergo background checks.
- “Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified because of a mental illness, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.”
- The FBI will process background checks 24/7 and hire 230 more staff to conduct the checks.
- ATF will hire 200 new agents to help enforce gun laws.
- A $500 million investment in mental health programs.
- “The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.”
- “The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.”
- “The President has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology.”
- “The President has also directed the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.”
Congress will be called on to approve the funding for hiring the new ATF agents and the increased allocation to mental health programs.