In the wake of a mass shooting at an Oregon college, President Obama is considering a plan that would require more Americans to undergo background checks when they purchase guns.
The Washington Post reported that Obama intends to go around Congress and use an executive order to mandate background checks for purchasers from “high volume gun dealers.”
“We are hopeful we can find a way to do this,” a source identified as a senior administration official told The Post. “It’s a lot more clear today than it was a year ago how to work this out.”
Details of the plan have not been released because White House lawyers are checking on its legality, although The Post noted that the plan could be similar to a proposal made by former Congresswoman and gun control advocate Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona).
Giffords proposed that all individuals who sell large numbers of guns be required to run background checks on buyers. If the president follows her advice, that could turn any private individual who sells more than a few guns into a high-volume gun dealer required to administer background checks.
An earlier proposal from the White House would have required that gun dealers who sell more than 50 guns a year run background checks, The Post reported. That proposal was apparently rejected because the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) felt it would be too hard to enforce and that the number itself – 50 – was arbitrary.
“Everyone realized it would be hugely politically controversial,” one White House official told the newspaper.
Following the Oregon shooting, Obama said he was going to ask his team “to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.”
Obama has been under pressure from gun control groups to use executive orders to expand restrictions on firearms. Those groups include Everytown for Gun Safety, financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That organization put out a wish list in early October of gun control measures that included expanded background checks.
An Everytown report called Beyond Gridlock contained this suggestion for Obama:
“Issue a regulation clarifying that high-volume gun sellers are ‘engaged in the business’ of dealing firearms and must obtain dealer licenses and comply with applicable laws, including background checks on all gun sales.”
The expanded background checks are apparently a response to the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The proposed background check, though, would not have stopped that shooting. The suspected Oregon shooter, Christopher Harper-Mercer, had no criminal record so he would have passed the background check and been able to buy a gun.
Meanwhile, increased talk of gun control is having one effect: Gun sales are increasingly dramatically. Newsweek reported that the number of background checks for gun buyers rose to a new high in September. Around 1.795 million gun background checks were processed by the NICS, a 20 percent increase over September 2014.
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