President Barack Obama’s Tuesday gun-control announcement drew passionate reactions from virtually the entire 2016 presidential field.
In an emotional speech at the White House, Obama said he was taking executive action to expand the number of people subject to background checks when buying guns.
Additionally, he said he would direct the federal government to research gun-safety technology and hire more personnel to conduct more efficient and effective background checks on gun buyers.
Obama said he was simply taking modest and common-sense steps in the absence of congressional legislation. But Republican candidates widely accused him of an illegal power grab shortly after his speech.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) may have had the most attention-grabbing reaction. The senator touted a gun-rights page on his campaign site that featured a image reminiscent of the propaganda used by military dictatorships.
“Obama wants your guns!” the page declared next to a large photo of Obama in military gear, standing in front of an ominous floating head of the president. (Cruz previously used the image in a pitch to supporters, according to The Washington Post.)
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) released a new campaign ad blasting Obama on several fronts, including gun control.
“His plan after the attack in San Bernardino: Take away our guns,” Rubio narrated in his ad.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) wrote an op-ed saying that Obama’s executive action would “trample on the Second Amendment.” Bush also had several pointed tweets blasting Obama’s and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s “gun-grabbing agenda.”
Today Obama proved again why he’s 1 of most liberal & divisive presidents in history. I’ll repeal his exec orders & protect 2nd Amend.
— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) January 5, 2016
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina further criticised Obama’s “lawless, unconstitutional” approach to gun policy. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said Obama couldn’t be trusted and his executive action had “everything to do with advancing his political agenda.”
And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) suggested that Obama should be more focused on halting abortions:
On the Democratic side of the race, Clinton released a statement embracing Obama’s executive action. The Democratic front-runner said she would look into going even further than Obama on the issue if she were elected to succeed him.
“I would use executive authority to go as far as would be possible under the law and I applaud the president for taking a hard look at that and I believe he will take some actions to require more gun sellers to do background checks,” Clinton said.
Clinton warned that “a Republican president would delight in the very first day, reversing executive orders that President Obama has made, including this one that we expect him to make.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) released a similar statement applauding Obama. Sanders’ relatively moderate record on gun control has been repeatedly criticised by both Clinton and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), his Democratic primary rivals.
“I support President Obama’s executive actions to make our communities safer,” Sanders said. “A vast majority of the American people, including responsible gun owners who are sickened by the deaths of so many innocent people, agree with the common sense reforms announced today.”
O’Malley also heralded Obama’s executive action and, like Clinton, pledged to go even further if he becomes president:
I strongly support President Obama’s executive actions to limit gun violence. These executive actions are critical, because every day we spend debating gun control is a day that we lose lives — and one American life is worth more than all the gun sales in America.
As president, I will build on President Obama’s progress by taking further executive actions to reform our gun laws. These include using the purchasing power of our federal government — the biggest customer gun companies have — to advance gun safety, banning ‘cop killer’ ammunition, declaring blanket immunity for gun dealers and manufacturers unconstitutional, and ceasing to defend the federal immunity law. I urge my fellow Democratic candidates for president to put forward similarly bold plans to improve gun safety and save lives.
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