Frustrated by an unresponsive Congress, President Obama has opted to issue an executive order that will strengthen gun control laws and expand access to mental healthcare options.
President Obama, flanked by individuals who have lost loved ones to gun violence, outlined the extensive plan this morning at a press conference. Under the new order, any individual who sells firearms must be licensed and conduct background checks on potential buyers; more ATF agents will be hired to enforce gun laws; gun owners will be required to report lost or stolen guns; $500 million will be devoted to broadening access to mental healthcare in a push to curb both mass shootings and suicides; and there will be an emphasis on gun safety technology.
“If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?” President Obama said at the press conference. “If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet…there’s no reason we can’t do it for guns. If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure they can’t pull a trigger on a gun.”
President Obama has been threatening to exercise his executive order authority since a shooting last month in San Bernandino, California, left 14 dead and another 22 injured. However, all of his gun safety proposals have been shot down by the Republican-led Congress, despite the fact that, as President Obama said, one in 30 gun buyers have a violent criminal record.
“We’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys their gun the right way and subject themselves to a background check,” President Obama said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
During today’s speech, President Obama was quick to note that he wasn’t trying to confiscate all firearms—he was simply trying to curb the gun violence that kills an average of 300,000 Americans per year.
It’s proven, he said, that stricter background check regulations work: Connecticut, which tightened background check laws, has seen a decrease in gun violence, while states like Missouri, who have taken opposite measures, have gun violence rates significantly higher than the national average.
He emotionally added that though he agreed that Second Amendment rights were important, Americans needed to understand that a balance was necessary. Citing shootings at places like Columbine, Emanuel AME, Sandy Hook and a Jewish Center in Kansas City, he said maintaining the right to bear arms shouldn’t come at the cost of sacrificing our other American rights: the right to religion, the right to assembly, and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
“Yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight,” he said. “It won’t happen during this Congress. It won’t happen during my presidency. But a lot of things don’t happen overnight. A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African-Americans didn’t happen overnight. LGBT rights? That was decades worth of work. But just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.”