Just kidding, the President’s not coming for your guns, but he did announce a series of executive actions Tuesday morning to possibly make them slightly harder to purchase than a pack of Sudafed, paired with stricter background checks and expanded mental health funding. Cue the freakout!
President Obama announced Sunday that he’d be addressing gun violence this week, setting off a mass round of performative pearl-clutching from people who love guns and hate when the president uses executive action.
“I believe in the Second Amendment,” he told a packed house this morning, with a bizarrely quiet Joe Biden standing next to him. “It’s written right there on the paper.” But after each mass shooting, he said, he has to repeat the same script, reassure the same people that he understands how the Constitution works.
“I taught Constitutional law,” he said dryly. “I know a little bit about it.”
But given the recalcitrance of Congress to do anything about the occasional classes of first-graders slaughtered wholesale, he added, more or less, “there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives. Actions that protect our rights and our kids.”
Among the measures announced today by the White House: Making it mandatory for anyone who sells firearms to get a license and conduct background checks. (No, that’s not currently a law at places like gun shows and in private Internet sales.) Making the background check system to buy a gun “more efficient,” hiring people to process applications faster and working the FBI and the ATF to modernize the system. They’re also planning to propose an increase in spending on mental health, while adding information to the background system about people who are prevented from buying guns for mental health reasons:
The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care.
The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.
The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.
Obama was careful to note that most mentally ill people connected with firearm violence don’t perpetrate mass shootings, but instead are likely to die by suicide.
At one point, discussing the victims at Sandy Hook Elementary, the president paused to wipe away tears. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” he said.
As soon as the president stopped talking, the Republican National Committee sent out a press release denouncing these tiny baby steps as an “insulting,” “political” “dangerous power grab.”
Here’s the full press conference, which begins around minute 38 for some reason:
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