White House, lawmakers say Obama's actions will make communities safer from guns

By Doug G. Ware  |  Updated Jan. 7, 2016 at 12:57 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The White House was joined by several Democratic lawmakers Wednesday in applauding President Barack Obama's new executive orders aimed at curbing gun violence through a variety of efforts.

During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett said Obama's actions establish a clear path to reducing gun violence with four main efforts -- tightening background checks, committing to making communities safer, increasing mental health treatment, and implementing safer gun technology.

"We are dedicated to do everything we can to keep guns out of the wrong hands," she said. "We can and must do something about it."

Jarrett was joined on the call by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Reps. Joaquin Castro, Ruben Gallego, Seth Moulton and Patrick Murphy.

"We can't keep waiting to take action that will stop violence in this country and keep our families and children safer," Warren said. "Every time Democrats have tried to get even the smallest reforms passed, Republicans have flatly refused."

One of the main focuses of Obama's orders, issued Tuesday, is to close a legal loophole that allows private parties and online retailers to sell firearms without conducting background checks. Because they don't need to be licensed, such sellers are exempt from the background check requirement.

"I have seen what guns can do and there is no place for that on our streets," said Moulton, D-Mass., a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq. "I think it is ridiculous that America is the only developed nation on Earth that has a scourge of gun violence."

Obama's plan also provides a $500 million investment aimed at improving access to mental health treatment.

"One thing all Americans agree with is you should not own a gun if you have a criminal history or mental illness," Gallego, D-Ariz., said.

Castro raised another impact that he believes guns have on American society -- suicide. Two out of every three gun-related deaths are suicides, he said, and tougher restrictions will also keep citizens on that side of the issue from dying.

"As a father of a 2-year-old girl ... this is a deeply disturbing thing," Castro, D-Texas, said.

Some Republicans, though, have challenged the legality of the president's orders, saying they are an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment.

"This is going to be another illegal action," Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie said.

"Another lawless, unconstitutional overreach," GOP candidate Carly Fiorina tweeted. "The 2nd Amendment is an individual right. Mr. President, how about enforcing the laws we have?"

Moulton expressly said during Wednesday's call that enforcing the existing laws is precisely what Obama's orders seek to do. The president and some lawmakers have stated they are confident the actions are allowed under the law.

"This law does not impede on the Second Amendment," Gallego said.

"These actions are simply a step in right direction. This is not a cure all," Murphy, D-Fla., said. "We have got first graders being killed in the classroom ... [and] Congress has failed to act in these moments of crisis."

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