Obama’s gun background check reforms rely on funding from Congress
WASHINGTON — The gun reform executive actions President Barack Obama will outline to the public in an address on Tuesday will not require congressional approval and will largely clarify existing statutes, but he is relying on funding from lawmakers to enact his plans.
In particular, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms will be releasing updated guidance to gun sellers that will discourage them from exploiting loopholes that currently allow some private sellers to bypass required background checks.
In a call with reporters on Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the new guidance “will help individuals who do want to comply and really do want to know the standards, and will also put everyone else on notice.”
Lynch noted that there’s been an expansion in the number of people claiming exceptions under the existing statute to avoid conducting these checks by claiming to be private sellers or collectors rather than firearm dealers.
Many of the administration’s proposals rely heavily on their ability to secure additional funding from Congress next fiscal year’s spending bill, which they hope to put toward investments in mental health care, and for hiring more ATF agents to enforce the law.
This will require the administration to seek congressional input even as they bypass the traditional legislative process to address this controversial issue.
“The refrain that we hear frequently from Republicans is that the federal government merely enforce the law that’s on the books,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, calling out Republican critics of enhanced gun control. “If that isn’t just them bluffing or trying to distract from the actual issue, them they should surely support additional resources being dedicated to enforcing that law that is already on the books.”
White House officials say they will be taking their case to Congress in the coming days, as well as directly to the American people through Obama’s remarks on Tuesday as well as a live Town Hall event he’ll be participating in on CNN Thursday night.
Several congressional Democrats convened at the White House Monday afternoon as the administration seeks to shore up support for its new efforts.
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-California, who chairs the Gun Violence Task Force and attended Monday’s meeting, immediately welcome the steps in a statement.
“I applaud this move and thank (President Obama) for his relentless work on the issue of gun violence,” he said. “Make no mistake, the President’s executive actions will make our country safer by helping keep guns out of dangerous hands.”
But the administration will still be faced with steep Republican opposition.
In a statement released a few hours before the new administration actions were outlined, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “President Obama’s dismissiveness toward Americans who value the Second Amendment has been well-documented.”
Ryan also blasted the president for taking executive action on this issue, saying Obama “is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will … No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally.”
The actions announced Monday also include steps to leverage new technologies, with Obama directing his secretaries of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to launch research into gun safety technology.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who proposed many of these steps to the president ahead of the White House announcement, also sent letters to all 50 state governors asking for cooperation in updating background check databases with the most recent criminal histories and disqualifying mental health information.