After months of calling on Congress to act on guns to no avail, President Obama announced executive actions on Monday that would require more gun sellers to obtain licenses and conduct background checks, including those who sell firearms online and at gun shows.
The action aims to fix the so-called gun-show loophole, which allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without undergoing a background check.
The new rules require people who are “engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” to obtain licenses and conduct background checks on buyers. That requirement has not applied to people who “make occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms,” according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).
The White House says the action still won’t apply to those who buy and trade as collectors, but it will apply to people who represent themselves as dealers, sell firearms shortly after acquiring them, or sell firearms in their original packaging.
The Obama Administration says there is no specific number or frequency of gun sales that would trigger the license requirement, but says “quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators.” An Administration official said Monday the numbers were left out in an effort to give federal officials the leeway to potentially target dealers that have not necessarily sold a lot of guns.
The Obama Administration is not sure exactly how many more dealers will be required to obtain licenses under the new rule. If dealers don’t comply, they can face criminal penalties including up to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.
Under the actions, the Obama Administration is also expanding background checks on individuals who attempt to purchase dangerous weapons like sawed-off shotguns or machine guns through trusts or corporations. The President is also taking action to hire over 200 additional people to examine and modernize the background-check system. All of the actions, which include upping mental-health treatment and training, are aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, making communities safer, shifting focus on mental-health training, and researching gun-safety technology, according to a fact sheet.
The announcement comes just hours after a meeting between top law-enforcement officials including Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey in the Oval Office on Monday to discuss the executive actions.
President Obama has sought to make curbing gun violence through stricter laws a priority of the federal government, but mostly Republican lawmakers in Congress have been reluctant to sign on to the legislation the President has supported.
As information about the action trickled out, Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers have expressed criticism of the President’s approach. Donald Trump has been highly critical of the action, promising to “unsign” the executive action if elected and issuing a dire warning that Americans will be unable to purchase guns. House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement Monday the use of executive action was yet another example of the Obama Administration’s overreach.
“No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally. The American people deserve a president who will respect their constitutional rights — all of them,” Ryan said in a statement.
At Monday’s meeting, Obama addressed the statements of his critics saying the recommendations he received are “well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe.”
Brady Campaign president Dan Gross praised the action as “bold and meaningful.”
“Brady background checks are the single most important tool we have to keep guns out of the hands of people we all agree shouldn’t have them: felons, domestic abusers, the dangerous mentally ill and terrorists,” he said.
According to an October CNN/ORC poll, the majority of Americans — about 52% — oppose stricter gun-control measures while 46% support them.