President Barack Obama to impose new gun controls next week

The push to control gun sales will be fiercely resisted in the US, where the right to bear arms is often considered ...
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The push to control gun sales will be fiercely resisted in the US, where the right to bear arms is often considered sacrosanct.

President Barack Obama will press ahead with a set of executive actions on guns next week despite growing terror concerns in the US that have dampened some Americans' enthusiasm for tighter firearms restrictions.

The president will meet  Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to finalise a series of new gun control measures and will announce his package of proposals soon afterward, according to several individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not yet public.

One of the main proposals Obama is poised to adopt would require some unlicensed gun dealers to get licences and conduct background checks on potential buyers.

Determined to do something about gun crime: President Barack Obama faces huge resistance from the US gun lobby.
AP

Determined to do something about gun crime: President Barack Obama faces huge resistance from the US gun lobby.

The change is aimed at informal dealers, such as those who sell online frequently or rent tables at gun shows but do not have a shop.

READ MORE: Where do guns used in US crimes come from?

Obama began examining how he could tighten the nation's gun rules after October's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

Guns on display in the Smith & Wesson booth at a gun expo in Tennessee in April.
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Guns on display in the Smith & Wesson booth at a gun expo in Tennessee in April.

Administration lawyers have spent months reviewing various proposals to make sure they can withstand legal challenges.

The idea of requiring informal gun dealers to obtain a licence from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and of conducting background checks came up two years ago when White House officials drafted a proposal for dealers who sell at least 50 guns annually.

The plan was shelved because of legal concerns but gained new momentum after the Roseburg shooting.

The White House review has been conducted in relative secrecy, soliciting input from gun safety groups without specifying which policies the administration might ultimately adopt. In the past month, Obama has met with former Democrats representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely injured in a 2011 mass shooting.

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In Obama's weekly radio address, released a day earlier than usual, the president said he was moving unilaterally because Congress had failed to address the growing problem of gun violence.

I get too many letters from parents, and teachers, and kids to sit around and do nothing," Obama continued. "I get letters from responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time these tragedies happen; who share my belief that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms; and who share my belief we can protect that right while keeping an irresponsible, dangerous few from inflicting harm on a massive scale."

In reviewing its options, the administration has shut out congressional Republicans, who joined with some Democrats in helping block legislation to expand background checks after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

"The administration has not communicated with us, and we have not been briefed," Doug Andres, a spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an email. "We will consider options once we have information, but what seems apparent is none of these ideas would have prevented the recent atrocities. Our focus should be on the consistent causes of these acts - mental illnesses and terrorism - rather than infringing on law-abiding Americans' constitutional rights."

Obama will make his case for additional gun restrictions in a number of forums in the coming month, according to aides, including during his January 12 State of the Union address.

Federal law requires that those who are "engaged in the business" of dealing in firearms to have a federal licence - and, therefore, to conduct background checks of potential buyers. But it exempts anyone "who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms". The administration wants to narrow that exemption so that more gun sellers will have to get licences.

The administration has been weighing other proposals, including requiring federally licensed gun dealers to report any lost and stolen guns to the National Crime Information Centre; providing guidance on restricting dangerous individuals from carrying guns within a specified distance of a school; clarifying that convicted abusers are prohibited from having guns regardless of their marital status; and instructing federal law enforcement to identify and arrest criminals who attempt to buy illegal guns.

The final package will contain at least half a dozen measures, and possibly more, according to those who have been briefed on it.

Any action by the president is sure to trigger a major backlash from gun-rights activists and Republican officeholders. Jennifer Baker, an NRA spokeswoman, said in an email that the president "is doing what he always does when he doesn't get his way, which is defy the will of the people and issue an executive order". 

Even as Obama made his radio pitch, a Texas law letting licensed handgun owners carry their weapons openly in public took effect.

 - Washington Post

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