President Barack Obama is embarking on a public relations tour to promote a new series of executive actions to help curb the effects of gun violence.
In an emotional speech at the White House on Tuesday, Obama laid out the rationale behind the plans, which include narrowing the so-called gun-show loophole and hiring 230 additional FBI agents to process background checks more quickly and efficiently.
“We do have to feel a sense of urgency about it,” Obama said. “Because people are dying and the constant excuses for inaction no longer suffice. That’s why we’re here today. Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try and prevent the next one.”
But despite the White House’s high-profile announcement on Tuesday and a televised town-hall event with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper scheduled for Thursday, even some gun-rights activists are gloating about how they feel the steps have been overhyped.
“This is it, really?” Jennifer Baker, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, told The New York Times. “This is what they have been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal they have spent seven years putting together? They’re not really doing anything.”
Indeed, though many high-profile gun-control advocates have praised the president for taking action, some have grumbled that the president’s actions don’t go as far as some advocates had hoped.
The group Everytown for Gun Safety, for example, had asked the president to ban gun owners from coming within 1,000 feet of a school, a provision that did not end up in the administration’s actions.
And notably, advocates point out that the new actions do not completely close the “gun-show loophole,” which has been a top priority since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre that left 20 children and six others dead.
That loophole allows individuals who occasionally sell guns to classify themselves as “private” gun sellers. These sellers, who often label themselves hobbyists or collectors, therefore avoid needing to submit their buyers to background checks.
The new guidance will not include a provision sought after by gun advocates that details the specific number of guns an individual needs to sell to qualify as a gun dealer — therefore triggering a requirement to submit buyers to background checks.
The White House said on Monday that the frequency of sales is a “relevant indicator” of which private sellers may be using their status to skirt background-check laws, but acknowledged that there is not a specific threshold separating “private” gun sellers from official dealers.
Some advocates say this will still allow wiggle room for private gun sellers to avoiding having their customers submit to background checks.
Closing the loophole itself is popular. Polls show that most Americans, including gun owners, support background checks for gun owners.
On Tuesday, many supporters of stricter gun controls praised the president’s actions. They put the onus on Congress and state governments to close loopholes.
“Today is an important day for the president, in light of congressional inaction, to do more to reduce gun violence in this country,” Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for Everytown, told Business Insider. “But the onus is still on political leaders in states to step up, too, and take action to close the loopholes in laws that make it easier for people to buy guns.”
“The problem is every day there are thousands of commercial sales where background checks are not required,” added Dan Gross, the vice president of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence. “Thanks to the president’s historic action today, that will no longer be the case.”
And at a rally in Iowa, Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton praised the president’s executive actions, warning that they could easily undone by the next president.
“The next president, on the very first day, could wipe it away,” Clinton said. “I won’t wipe it away.”
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