Here’s Obama’s New Plan to Tighten Gun Laws

President Barack Obama meets with law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Loretta Lynch, on Monday.Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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As expected, President Barack Obama will announce a series of gun-related executive actions Tuesday meant to expand background checks on firearm purchases and step up federal enforcement of existing gun laws.

One executive action would clarify existing law that anyone “engaged in the business of selling firearms”—including at gun shows and online—must be licensed and conduct background checks on gun purchasers. The White House’s fact sheet explains:

…it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks. Background checks have been shown to keep guns out of the wrong hands, but too many gun sales—particularly online and at gun shows—occur without basic background checks.

But as my colleague Mark Follman wrote Monday, that clarification won’t be enough: “Expanding background checks through a broader interpretation of current federal law still won’t close the so-called gun show loophole; hundreds of thousands of firearms will continue to be bought and sold with minimal regulation, both online and in person. Only an act of Congress could change that comprehensively.”

Other executive actions include:

  • A $500 million investment in mental-health services.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco, Firearms, and Explosives will announce a rule requiring background checks for people who purchase weapons through a trust or corporation. (The White House’s earlier efforts to close this loophole through executive action hit a roadblock nearly two years ago, when ATF officials delayed publishing the rule after facing opposition from industry groups, including the National Rifle Association.)
  • The White House will request funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators to enforce existing gun laws.
  • The ATF will require licensed dealers who ship guns to notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen.
  • The FBI will hire more than 230 examiners to process background checks in an overhauled system.

Obama’s announcement comes days before he hosts a town hall meeting on guns Thursday night. The move is expected to garner pushback from opponents, especially those in a divided Congress who blocked legislation three years ago to close the so-called gun show loophole. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already warned that the president’s actions was a “dangerous level of executive overreach.”

“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,” Obama told reporters on Monday. “It will potentially save lives in this country and spare families the pain of these extraordinary loss.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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