President Barack Obama defended Tuesday his decision to act urgently to control gun sales in the United States and presented a series of executive orders to help prevent some 30,000 people from getting shot to death every year, which is what happens now in the U.S.
At a White House event where he was accompanied by the families of gun violence victims, Obama said the country has experienced “too many” mass shootings in recent years, something that “doesn’t happen in other advanced countries.”
“We do have to feel a sense of urgency about it. Because people are dying” from gun violence, the president said, regretting that “instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates,” a clear reference to Republicans’ harsh criticism of his measures.
The president insisted that his proposed executive orders are “not a plot to take away everybody’s guns,” as the majority of Republicans claim, and is not an “infringement on the Second Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution that protects people’s right to bear arms.
“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence,” Obama said, adding that “the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.”
He once again asked Congress to be “brave enough” to pass measures that will do a better job of regulating gun sales, something he said has the support of most Americans.
Visibly moved during the final part of his address, Obama recalled the shooting that occurred in December 2012 at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and 6 adults were gunned down.
“Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad,” Obama said.
After that massacre, Obama tried to pressure Congress into passing laws controlling gun sales, but the lawmakers would not even pass the bill that won the most backing and which aimed to establish a universal system of background checks for gun buyers.
The measures outlined Tuesday by Obama are limited, since his legal advisers considered actions that unilaterally establish universal background checks or that ban the sale of semi-automatic weapons or high capacity magazines go beyond his legal authority.
One of the key measures of Obama’s executive action proposals is the requirement that all those in the business of selling guns must be registered, must obtain a federal license, and consequently, will have the responsibility of checking the criminal records and mental health of their customers before putting firearms in their hands.
Up to now, only arms merchants with a federal license have been obliged to do background checks, while those doing business through informal markets like gun shows or the Internet can easily skirt that control mechanism.