President Obama wants to meet with Attorney General Lynch today to speak with her about stricter gun control laws.
U.S. media reported that Obama plans to tighten gun control in the country by means of a decree.
Not much room for maneuvering remains for the president in the last year of his term of office – and Republicans and the NRA are sharply criticizing Obama’s plans.
With every day that passes, Barack Obama loses influence. He cannot bring about all that much in his last year as U.S. president. Largely hamstrung in domestic policy, he is increasingly becoming a “lame duck.” Before he leaves office, however, he wants to take care of one of the most urgent issues considered to be “unfinished business,“ as he called it in his New Year’s address: gun violence in his country.
A last gasp in his fight against this problem is the meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch that Obama has announced for this Monday. Obama appears to be determined now to implement his plans for strengthening gun control laws. He announced that he wants to speak with Lynch about a package of measures right after his return from Christmas vacation.
As CNN and Politico report referring to insider circles, Obama wants to regulate access to weapons more strictly. After he failed again and again with his demand in the Republican dominated Congress, he now wants to enforce it by decree. His measures include among other things that smaller weapons dealers must check the history of their buyers. In addition, the regulations for reporting lost or stolen weapons are to be tightened. Obama’s plans thereby at least partially follow the recommendations urged by the organization “Everytown for Gun Safety,” which is campaigning for stricter gun control laws. In their current report, for example, the organization demands that so-called occasional sales by hobby gun collectors be limited.
‘Too Many Letters from Parents and Teachers and Children’
The tightened screening of weapons buyers, however, does not mean a revolution. In fact, Obama’s plans are rather modest. According to a survey, they express what the majority of Americans want anyway: closure of loopholes in the purchase of weapons on the Internet or at so-called gun shows. The general right to bear arms is not being touched.
Nonetheless, the critics are already buzzing. The topic of gun control also plays an important role in the election. The fear of terrorists in the U.S. has grown after the attacks in Paris, and almost half of Americans believe that privately owned weapons increase protection from terrorists.
Obama, however, recalled in his most recent radio address the shootings in his own country. “I get too many letters from parents and teachers and kids, to sit around and do nothing,” he said. He knows that he cannot prevent every act of violence. “But what if we tried to stop even one?” Obama asked.
The Extreme Measure of American Legal Procedures
Obama has often given such speeches, too often. Most recently, after the attack in San Bernardino with a total of 16 dead, he called on Congress to finally enact stricter gun control laws. Most Republicans and the powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, fight against this.
Now Obama could resort to the extreme measure of American legal procedures to at least close the loopholes in the screening of weapons purchasers. By means of an executive order, the U.S. president has the power to establish laws without the approval of Congress. Such an order of the U.S. president, for example, has been in effect for the treatment of terrorists since the attacks on Sept. 11.
To date, Obama has issued 216 such orders during his time in office. In January 2013, a month after the shooting rampage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 28 people died, he issued a total of 23 decrees to tighten gun control. Among other things, he established that federal authorities would re-investigate shootings and that the mental health of the gunman would be evaluated using a background check.
Then, however, a new defeat followed. In July 2013, Obama failed in tightening gun control laws in the Senate. The president spoke of a “shameful day for Washington.” The initiatives would have provided for screenings of almost all weapon consumers. Obama said around 90 percent of Americans would have supported the bill. “But the gun lobby mobilized against it. And the Senate blocked it,” he said.
Obama’s frustration grew in the years that followed. He seldom displayed his rage in the political arena as openly as he did when it concerned gun control laws. A “routine” was creeping in, he said after the shooting rampage in Oregon in which 10 people died in October 2015. After every attack, there followed horrified media reports and a shaken president at the speaker’s podium – but otherwise nothing changed. The entire country is indifferent and “numb,” Obama said. The perpetrator in Oregon owned 13 weapons – all legally purchased.
In spite of this, the NRA and Republicans foster the cult of weapons and argue again and again that there would be even more crime without guns. Obama’s speeches seem to fall on deaf ears; his hands have virtually been tied by the resistance in Congress – and time is running out. On Nov. 8, 2016, a new president will be elected; the primaries will begin in four weeks.
Republican Candidates Want to Undo Regulations
At the latest, Obama could announce his concrete plans in his last State of the Union address on Jan. 12. That point in time appears fitting, because the public interest is turning increasingly to the candidates for the office of president.
The Republican candidates have already announced that they will undo all regulations imposed by the president in the event of a win in the election. “President Obama is trying to distract Americans from his failure to address the true threat of radical Islamic terrorism,” said a spokesman for candidate Ted Cruz, currently number two in the field of Republican contenders after Donald Trump.
At a campaign appearance, Trump said he will “unsign” Obama’s signature [on the executive order regarding gun control] – and “so fast.” And he could do that if he were elected. Every presidential order issued by Obama could be lifted immediately by his successor.
NRA Weighs Heavily in Election Year
The NRA, the most powerful organization of gun owners, has also commented on Obama’s most recent plans. “President Obama failed to pass his anti-gun agenda though Congress because the majority of Americans oppose more gun control. Now he is doing what he always does when he doesn’t get his way, which is defy the will of the people and issue an executive order,” said NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker.
The NRA grades candidates according to their decisions and positions on questions of gun control. This grade weighs heavily in an election year. Most Republicans achieve the top grade of A or A+. Five of the Democrats who voted for the increase in screening of gun purchasers after the massacre on a U.S. elementary school have, on the other hand, been voted out of office and replaced by NRA supported Republicans. At least Obama, in his last year in office, does not need to fear this punishment by outraged voters.