WASHINGTON, D.C.-In a tearful press conference on Jan. 5, President Barack Obama unveiled a series of new firearms related executive orders.
The Obama administration defended the new orders as common sense changes to existing laws. Detractors, like Rep. Virginia Foxx, who represents North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, called the orders an overreach of the president’s executive authority, and said “Congressional refusal to pass bad policy does not transfer legislative authority to the president and I will fight against this attempt to diminish our constitutional rights.”
The National Rifle Association also criticized the president’s plan, but Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said he largely agreed with the President’s call to expand background checks to cover more gun sales, like those at gun shows.
“That so-called ‘gun show loophole,’ I’m all in favor of closing that down,” Williams said. “Lots of folks are able to successfully buy what they want even though they go through a background check. If it catches someone who shouldn’t have a gun, I think it’s smart to expand that.”
Here’s a breakdown of the executive order:
Expanded background checks
“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background check,” according to a release issued by the White House.
The agency is also finalizing a rule that would require background checks of purchases made through a trust, corporation or other legal entity, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is overhauling the entire background check system which the president said would allow background checks to be processed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The improved system will also notify local authorities if certain prohibited people unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI has also been authorized to hire 230 additional background check investigators.
More money, more agents
Through the U.S. Department of Justice, the Obama administration has directed U.S. Attorneys around the country to “direct federal prosecutors to continue to focus on smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.”
The President’s 2017 budget will also include funding 200 new ATF agents and investigators to help enforce gun laws already on the books, and $4 million in funding to track illegal online firearms trafficking.
A closer look at mental health
The president’s order also includes a $500 million investment to increase “access to mental health care,” while the Social Security Administration has said 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 federal Department of Health and Human Services said it will also “remove unnecessary legal barriers,” that could prevent states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from buying a gun for specific mental health reasons.
Technology plays a part
President Obama has also directed the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to “conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology,” and track the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.