Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Obama takes executive action to increase background checks, ramp up enforcement

President Obama is taking executive action to increase background checks for firearms and reduce gun violence, says a White House news release. As part of the plan, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) "is finalizing a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation or other legal entity."

Obama's proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 would fund 200 more ATF agents to help enforce gun laws. "ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking and is dedicating $4 million and additional personnel to enhance the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network," the release says, adding that the agency is "finalizing a rule to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit."

Meanwhile, the FBI "is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient" by hiring 230 employees to process background checks 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, while also "improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun."

The administration is also proposing $500 million to increase access to mental health care. "The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons," the release says.

Even before the announcement, "Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail blasted the actions, and some gun-rights advocates threatened to challenge them in court," David Nakamura and Juliet Eilperin report for The Washington Post. "House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) issued a statement Monday saying that even without knowing the plan’s details, he thinks 'the president is at minimum subverting the legislative branch and potentially overturning its will. . . . This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it.'”

Obama, in a Twitter message Monday evening referring to the National Rifle Association, wrote: “The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage, but they can’t hold America hostage." He used the same line in his announcement; for an annotation/analysis of his remarks, from Chris Cillizza of the Post, click here.

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