WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – President Barack Obama beat Congress back to Washington after the holidays, wasting no time to tee up 2016’s first big political fight — tighter gun regulations.
It’s part of the president’s self-professed New Year’s resolution of wrapping up unfinished business.
“The good news is these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in,” Mr. Obama argued from the Oval Office on Monday.
Having returned from his two-week Hawaii vacation just 26 hours earlier, Mr. Obama attended the high-profile planning meeting Monday afternoon regarding new gun regulations, and reportedly plans to unveil his team’s final regulatory package on Tuesday.
New Gun Rules
The president carefully planned his first day back in Washington, calling together, among others, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey to sketch out the final contours of the forthcoming executives actions.
New regulations, the Associated Press reports, are likely to:
- Narrow the so-called gun show loophole
- Require more hobbyists to obtain a license to sell guns
- Investigate gun dealers’ legal compliance
- Crack down on illegal firearm purchases by criminals
The legislative tweaks won’t check every regulatory box desired by reform supporters, but Mr. Obama’s moves have already riled plenty of his opponents.
GOP: ‘Dangerous Level of Executive Overreach’
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) signaled conservative House members’ readiness to fight back, accusing Mr. Obama of “subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will.”
In the wake of past mass shootings in places like San Bernardino and Sandy Hook Elementary School, congressional Republicans, and a handful of Democrats, with the prodding of the National Rifle Association and pro-gun constituents, have squelched attempts to narrow certain gun laws, like those allowing the proliferation of assault weapons.
Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott got more than 4,000 retweets when he responded to reports of the president’s plan with his own message: “COME & TAKE IT.”
“No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally,” wrote Speaker Ryan on Monday, continuing, “The American people deserve a president who will respect their constitutional rights – all of them.”
2016 Candidates Respond
Republican 2016 front-runner Donald Trump denounced Mr. Obama’s “assault on the Second Amendment” and vowed to “unsign” the president’s executive actions on his first day occupying the Oval Office.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) retweeted an article showing his campaign’s plan to raffle off an engraved shotgun to coincide with the president’s executive action.
“The president is a petulant child” who wants to “act as if he’s a king, as if he’s a dictator,” said Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) ahead of Mr. Obama’s Monday meeting.
Democrats have been decidedly more receptive to the president’s gun plan.
Hillary Clinton released a video blasting Republicans for “delighting” in the prospect of reversing Mr. Obama’s tighter gun regulations at the peril of Americans’ safety.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) backed the effort, noting a majority of Americans support widened background checks and calling the measures “the right thing to do.”
Congress gets back to work over the next two weeks, with the House of Representatives expected to return on Tuesday (1/5) and the Senate gaveling back into session the following Monday.
Once all the major players are back in D.C., the president’s opponents have every incentive to escalate this battle, galvanizing a staunchly pro-gun voter base and handing conservative 2016 candidates a gift basket of colorful talking points.
GOP leaders could also file a lawsuit to stop the new regulations from taking effect, similar to their legal efforts to stymie Obamacare and some of the president’s previous immigration orders.
For his part, Mr. Obama has two major venues lined up to make his sales pitch.
On Thursday, he will participate in a live one-hour town hall with CNN’s Anderson Cooper to address the issue of gun violence in America.
In a week, the president will deliver his final State of the Union address, in which he’ll lay out his agenda for his final year in office. Gun safety is expected to factor prominently in the speech.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter @ChanceSeales.