Sunday 20 May 2018

Tearful Obama reveals new plan to tighten US gun laws

US President Barack Obama sheds a tear while delivering a statement on steps to reduce gun violence at the White House in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reutersduring
US President Barack Obama sheds a tear while delivering a statement on steps to reduce gun violence at the White House in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reutersduring

Nick Allen Washington

President Barack Obama outlined a plan to tighten up America's gun laws yesterday by extending background checks to those buying weapons over the internet and at gun shows.

He said he would use his executive powers, bypassing the Republican-led Congress.

As he spoke about the deaths of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012, Mr Obama began to cry.

He said: "Each time I think about those kids, it makes me mad. And, by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day."

He added: "The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage but they can't hold America hostage. We can't accept this carnage in our communities. … We are the only country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with such frequency. We start thinking this is normal."

Under his plan, the so-called "gun show loophole" would be closed. Private dealers would be considered to be "in the business" of selling guns if they accept credit card transactions, rent a table at a show, or have business cards.

They would then be required to obtain licences and carry out background checks on buyers in the same way that licensed dealers do. The FBI will hire 230 extra staff to process round-the-clock background checks.

"This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns," said the president. "You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm."

Mr Obama also announced action on "straw purchases" in which weapons are bought through intermediaries.

Republicans accused him of launching a "war on the Constitution" and may try to block the move in the courts.

Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, said Mr Obama was "undermining liberty" and the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

He said: "We all are pained by the recent atrocities in our country but no change the president is reportedly considering would have prevented them."

Mr Obama has made 16 public statements following mass shootings during his presidency. His new measures were unveiled in front of a White House audience that included victims. He was introduced by Mark Barden, whose son died at Sandy Hook.

Mr Barden said: "As a nation, we have to do better."

Mr Obama's proposals are a watered-down version of those blocked in Congress following Sandy Hook.

Significant sections of the US electorate are gun owners and Republican presidential candidates immediately rounded on him. Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner, said: "Pretty soon you won't be able to get guns."

Marco Rubio said: "He (Mr Obama) is obsessed with gun control. On my first day in office behind that desk, don't worry, those orders are gone."

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, said she supported Mr Obama and would go further, adding: "We've got to act but I don't think that's enough."

There are thought to be more than 300 million guns in circulation in the United States and more than 30,000 people die from gun injuries each year. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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