(KMSP) - President Obama delivered an emotional speech Tuesday while he announced new executive actions aimed to reduce gun violence in the U.S. The President was introduced by Mark Barden, whose youngest son Daniel was killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," Obama said, as he paused to wipe away tears. “And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”
After Sandy Hook, Obama said he and Joe Biden worked together with their teams to put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems already in place – “but today, we want to take it a step further,” he said Tuesday.
In his speech, the President referred to Second Amendment rights being important, but stated other rights should also be accounted for.
Obama said the right to peaceful assembly was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. And the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness was stripped from high schoolers at Columbine and first-graders in Newtown.
But republicans such as House Speak Paul Ryan (R-WI) said, "No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment. We will conduct vigilant oversight,” adding that the actions “will no doubt be challenged in the courts.”
The President outlined his plans listing four separate measures. They are:
1. Those in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions – “It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show. It’s not where you do it, but what you do,” he said.
The FBI is also overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include: Processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun.
The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.
2. Ensure smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already in the books, plus add 200 more ATF agents and investigators.
The ATF has established an Internet Investigation Center to track illegal online firearms trafficking. A rule is being finalized to ensure that dealers who ship firearms notify law enforcement if their guns are lost or stolen in transit.
In his speech, Obama said they’re working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence. The Attorney General also issued a memo encouraging every U.S. Attorney’s Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.
3. Help those suffering from mental illness more to get the help they need, and invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country. “High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others,” he said.
The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin a rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.
The President also highlighted suicides, and said there will be a strong focus on preventing people from hurting themselves.
4. Boost gun safety technology to reduce injuries and deaths as a result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally. Obama wants to develop new technologies that make guns safer.
Among a few illustrations he provided was, “If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns?”
The President has directed the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into enhancing gun safety technology.
But Ryan said the changes would only hurt law-abiding Americans -- “He knows full well that the law already says that people who make their living selling firearms must be licensed, regardless of venue. Still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens."