During the last press conference of his first term, President Barack Obama promised to push whatever measures he could to prevent the sort of gun violence seen in recent months. The conference was held exactly a month after the shooting in Newtown, Conn., which claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults. Vice President Joe Biden will announce a series of proposals to strengthen gun controls on Tuesday. Expected goals include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Obama directly addressed the powerful gun lobby, accusing it of “ginning up fear” among gun owners. The president cited some of the more common arguments against assault weapons — the guns are impractical for hunting and carry an unnecessary amount of firepower for civilians. He challenged the business intentions of lobbyists, who have influenced Americans to buy a record number of guns in recent weeks.
“As for people lining up and purchasing more guns, I think we have seen for some time now that those who oppose any commonsense gun control or gun safety measures have a pretty effective way of ginning up fear on the part of gun owners that somehow the federal government is about to take all your guns away,” he said during the conference.
“There is probably an economic element to that. It is obviously good for business,” he continued. “But I think that those of us who have looked at this problem have repeatedly said that responsible gun owners, people who have a gun for protection, for hunting, for sportsmanship – they don’t have anything to worry about.”
Though gun legislation may have difficulty getting through a divided Congress, Obama said that his administration would bypass the House and Senate where possible. Biden’s proposals are the legislative strategy, but executive orders from the president could force immediate change.
One executive decision could be to have federal agencies transfer more records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to better detect mental health issues and other information about potential gun owners. Forcing such measures beyond the control of Congress or the gun lobby will no doubt earn the president some enemies, but reflects the urgency he feels in changing America’s gun culture.