President Obama will outline a series of executive actions on Tuesday to curb gun violence as he acts on his own to accomplish what he could not persuade Congress to do.
The centerpiece of the executive action is a set of criteria designed to more clearly define who qualifies as a gun dealer, federal officials announced on Monday evening. Licensed firearms dealers must carry out background checks of potential buyers. But, as my colleague Adrienne LaFrance points out, the ambiguity of existing law allows some sellers “to advertise the fact that they don’t require background checks, which makes it easy for people to purchase weapons without any scrutiny.” The administration attempts to end that ambiguity by offering new guidance, a move that could significantly expand the use of background checks.
“What I asked my team to do is 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 said on Monday afternoon.
Facing opposition from congressional Republicans, Obama has moved to enact major policy change through executive action. Such actions are vulnerable to being overturned by Congress or by future presidents, and thus less likely to stick than legislation. But the president has faced heightened pressure in recent months to impose stricter gun-control measures. A string of deadly mass shootings like the one that took place at an Oregon community college in October, and the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, in December, have reignited debate over national security and gun violence.