In the Blue Room of the White House, President Barack Obama talks with people whose lives have been impacted by gun violence, prior to announcing executive actions that the administration is taking to reduce gun violence, Jan. 5 2016. Pete Souza / White House.
For the past few years, gun violence has been on the rise in the United States. An FBI report from 2014 found that the average number of active shooter events had jumped from 6 to 16 between 2000 and 2013.
Despite his past efforts, President Barack Obama has not been able to enforce stricter gun laws. On Jan. 5, 2016, he held a press conference at the White House and formally announced his new strategy to reduce gun violence and reinforce existing gun control laws in America.
Audience members included families affected by gun violence as well as victims. A more prominent moment came when the president shed a tear as he mentioned the Sandy Hook shooting in which 20 elementary school children were killed.
The president’s main proposal requires that anyone in the business of selling firearms must be licensed and perform background checks on purchasers. This includes gun stores, gun shows and online sales, where background checks are not usually enforced.
Additionally, the president suggested a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care. The Department of Health and Human Services will allow states to report significant information concerning people who can’t have firearms for mental health reasons.
The president requested more funding to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to hire 200 new agents to help enforce current gun laws. ATF would also create an Internet Investigation Center run by a committed staff to keep track of illegal firearm sales online.
Other actions include requiring licensed dealers who ship guns to notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen and hiring over 230 examiners to process background checks in a renovated system.
Obama explained to the audience that no other advanced country has the kind of frequent mass gun violence that America has. “Somehow we become numb to it, and we start to feel that this is normal,” he said at the press conference. “And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates, despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done.”
The president’s plans to reduce gun violence without the help of Congress have been greeted with mixed reactions. Many celebrities have spoken out in support of his plans and utilized the hashtag “#StopGunViolence.”
Meanwhile, the president immediately received backlash from Republican presidential candidates for going around Congress, even though his plan is constitutionally legal. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) tweeted that he planned to “fight Obama’s executive orders tooth and nail.”
Obama stated that he knows this plan will not solve every violent crime in America. “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. “It will potentially save lives in this country and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses that they’ve suffered.”