President Barack Obama has unveiled new restrictions on gun purchases at the White House, saying the “constant excuses for inaction” have to stop.
The White House has outlined Barack Obama’s plans for executive action, which focus on background checks.
Most of the actions can be carried out without Congressional approval.
“That’s why we’re here, not to do something about the last mass shooting, but to prevent the next one,” Barack Obama said.
“The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they can’t hold America hostage,” he said.
Barack Obama gave his remarks surrounded by survivors and relatives of victims of shootings, recalling mass shootings across the United States in the past few years and everyday gun violence in cities like Chicago.
Gun violence is significantly higher in the US than in other advanced countries, killing about 30,000 people each year.
Congress has been reluctant to pass any laws restricting gun ownership, facing pressure from gun owners and the powerful National Rifle Association.
Barack Obama tried to pass expanded background check legislation in 2012 after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead but it failed in Congress.
The executive actions include:
Background checks for all gun sellers, overturning current exemptions to some online and gun show sellers
States providing information on people disqualified from buying guns due to mental illness or domestic violence
Increased workforce for the FBI to process background checks, hiring more than 230 new examiners
Congress being asked to invest $500 million to improve access to mental healthcare in the US
The departments of defense, justice and homeland security exploring “smart gun technology” to improve gun safety
The announcement is already shaping up to be an issue in the 2016 presidential election.
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tweeted: “@POTUS is right: We can protect the second Amendment while protecting our families and communities from gun violence. And we have to.”
Republican candidate Senator Ted Cruz tweeted that the executive actions are unconstitutional, with a link to sign up for his campaign correspondence on a webpage that says “Obama wants your guns” with a photo of the president in an army jacket and hat.
Jeb Bush tweeted that he would repeal the actions and protect the Second Amendment.
During Barack Obama’s speech, comedian Amy Schumer, cousin of New York Senator Chuck Schumer, was in the audience. Two women died in a shooting at a movie theatre in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Trainwreck.
Gabby Giffords, a former congresswoman who survived a shooting, was there as well, in addition to many relatives of victims and survivors of mass shooting.
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