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The Oklahoman: President's actions on gun control draw fire from GOP, others

January 5, 2016
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

President Barack Obama, fighting back tears over lives lost in mass shootings, said Tuesday he will require more gun sellers to conduct background checks.

Obama's move to "clarify" current law on background checks is the centerpiece of the executive efforts he announced at the White House to reduce gun violence.

In an emotional speech in front of an audience that included victims of mass shootings and relatives of people killed by guns, the president said he believed in the constitutional right to own firearms but that "we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Republicans and the National Rifle Association criticized the president's moves, saying they would infringe on gun ownership rights and were more political than substantive.

Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, said, “The men and women of the National Rifle Association take a back seat to no one when it comes to keeping our communities safe. But the fact is that President Obama's proposals would not have prevented any of the horrific events he mentioned.

“The timing of this announcement, in the eighth and final year of his presidency, demonstrates not only political exploitation but a fundamental lack of seriousness.”

Obama has spoken out numerous times for gun control measures, and on Tuesday he mentioned the 2013 failure in the Senate of a bill to expand background checks.

“So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage,” the president said. “We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.”

His executive action will clarify that a federal law requiring those “engaged in the business of selling guns” extends beyond gun shops to some who sell firearms at gun shows and on the Internet.

he president said the move was “not a plot to take away everybody's guns. You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.”

Obama also called for:

•Hiring more federal agents to enforce existing gun laws and process applications to purchase guns.

•Making federal mental health records part of the instant background check system.

•Investing in smart gun research to prevent accidental discharges and killings by children.

Obama is scheduled to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on Thursday about gun safety.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in decisions handed down in 2008 and 2010, ruled that the Second Amendment grants an individual right to bear arms. But in both decisions, the court said it was not tossing out every law regulating firearms.

The court said specifically it was not trying to “cast doubt” on regulations prohibiting firearms possession by felons and the mentally ill, laws that forbid guns at “sensitive places such as schools and government buildings” or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.

But Oklahoma Republicans said the president's actions would violate the Second Amendment.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said Obama's plan “would do absolutely nothing to prevent deranged criminals from committing horrific crimes. In fact, the president's plan instead infringes upon the rights of law-abiding citizens and needlessly punishes those who haven't committed any crimes. This hostility toward the Second Amendment has been an unfortunate hallmark of his presidency.”

And Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, said, “Any serious effort to curb violent crime would focus on enforcing current laws on the books, rather than unilaterally writing new ones. As the president enters his final year in office, this proposal is nothing more than an attempt to distract the public from his failure to lead on significant issues like national security, immigration and the economy.”

Online: The Oklahoman