NRA says Obama's gun actions 'ripe for abuse'

WASHINGTON (AP) - The latest on President Barack Obama's executive actions to tighten gun control in the United States (all times EST):

2:10 p.m.:

The National Rifle Association says President Barack Obama's executive actions on gun control are "ripe for abuse" and lack seriousness.

The nation's largest gun group is accusing Obama of political exploitation for announcing the steps in the last year of his presidency. Chris Cox, who runs the NRA's lobbying arm, says the actions wouldn't have prevented any of the mass shootings that Obama mentioned when he announced the steps at the White House.

Cox says Obama is trying to distract from his lack of a strategy to prevent terrorist attacks in the U.S. He says Americans don't need any more "emotional, condescending lectures that are completely devoid of facts."

The NRA isn't detailing what steps, if any, it will take to oppose or try to thwart Obama's plan. But Cox says the NRA won't allow "law-abiding gun owners to become scapegoats for President Obama's failed policies."


2 p.m.:

Vice President Joe Biden will push the president's executive actions on guns in interviews with media outlets in communities that have been hit by recent gun violence.

Biden led the Obama administration's initial search for executive steps on gun control after the 2012 shooting Newtown, Connecticut. He will participate in an interview with WVIT in Hartford, Connecticut.

Biden will also speak to WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. The same station employed TV reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, who died in an on-air shooting in August at the hands of a former station employee.

The vice president will also conduct interviews with stations in Columbus, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Philadelphia.

Biden's interviews will air Wednesday evening. He's also taping an interview with NowThis, which makes videos distributed to social media outlets such as Facebook.


12:50 p.m.:

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says President Barack Obama's new actions to more tightly regulate gun sales aren't worth the paper they're written on.

During a campaign stop in Onawa, Iowa, the Republican presidential candidate repeated his promise to repeal all of Obama's executive actions, including the latest ones on guns.

Cruz says that "when you live by the pen, you die by the pen." And he added that his own pen "has an eraser on it."


12:45 p.m.:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is criticizing President Barack Obama as a weak commander-in-chief who is more focused on undercutting Americans' rights to bear arms than combatting terrorism.

In a statement, the Kentucky Republican on Tuesday dismissed Obama's actions to more tightly regulate gun sales. He says Congress will track the actions closely to ensure they follow the Constitution and federal law.

McConnell says that the American people are seeking a leader to counter terrorist threats from Islamic State militants and al-Qaida, but instead Obama is giving them "lectures, distractions, and attempts to undermine their fundamental Second Amendment rights."


12:35 p.m.:

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton is offering her positive reviews of the president's actions on gun regulation in a tweet.

Clinton tweeted her thanks to the president. She called his executive actions "a crucial step forward on gun violence."

And she added that the next president "has to build on that progress_not rip it away."

Clinton's Democratic opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, also praised the president's actions.

Sanders says he'd continue Obama's actions if elected president.

Sanders accused Republicans of placing the interests of the National Rifle Association ahead of children and innocent Americans.


12:25 p.m.:

President Barack Obama was moved to tears in an unusually emotional display during his announcement of new executive actions on guns.

Obama said "it gets me mad" every time he thinks about the 20 first-graders who were killed in the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school in December 2012.

But his emotions had already begun to overtake him by the time he said that.

Obama spoke at the White House on Tuesday about rights that had been denied victims of other mass shootings. He mentioned freedom of religion taken from parishioners killed at a South Carolina church and freedom of assembly taken from movie-goers killed at cinemas in Colorado and Louisiana. He also mentioned the violence in his Chicago hometown.

Obama paused and wiped a tear from the corner of his left eye. Tears flowed freely down both cheeks.


12:20 p.m.:

House Speaker Paul Ryan says no matter what unilateral action President Barack Obama takes on gun control, "his word does not trump the Second Amendment."

The Wisconsin Republican says in a statement that the president's steps to expand background checks to cover more firearms are certain to be challenged in the courts. Ryan also is stressing that whatever the president does can be overturned if a Republican is elected president in November.

Ryan said Obama has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that the country has valued since its inception.

He says Obama "knows full well that the law already says that people who make their living selling firearms must be licensed, regardless of venue. Still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens."

Ryan said Obama's words and actions "amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty."


12:15 p.m.:

President Barack Obama says that contrary to the claims of some GOP presidential candidates, he's not plotting to take away everyone's guns.

Speaking in the East Room at the White House, Obama is defending his executive actions to tighten criminal background checks.

The president said Tuesday his actions are consistent with the constitutional right to right to bear arms. The president noted that he taught constitutional law, and added: "I know a little about this."

Obama says some constraints on freedom are necessary to protect innocent people. He notes that the right to free speech also comes with the limitation that you can't yell "fire" in a theater.


12 p.m.:

President Barack Obama is opening his announcement on new gun actions by remembering former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

Giffords was a member of Congress when she was gravely wounded five years ago this week in a shooting at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. More than a dozen others also were shot.

Obama later spoke at a memorial service in Tucson for those who didn't survive. He says that wasn't the first time he had to talk to the nation following a mass shooting, nor would it be the last.

The president went on to name cities around the country that have mourned the loss of life in other mass shootings. They include Fort Hood, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Newtown, Connecticut and, most recently, San Bernardino, California.

Obama punctuated his list by saying "Too many." The audience gathered in the White House East Room followed him by softly echoing "too many."


11:50 a.m.:

The White House usually does the tweeting when President Barack Obama speaks.

But the president of a leading gun violence prevention group joined the action Tuesday for Obama's announcement of new executive actions on guns.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, live tweeted as Obama spoke from the White House East Room.

An early tweet quoted the president as saying "Need to do something not to debate the last shooting but to prevent the next one!"

Gross became involved in gun violence prevention after his brother was shot on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in 1997.

Before arriving at the White House, Gross tweeted that he was "gonna tell Prez Jim & Sarah give huge thumbs up!"

Gross was referring to Jim Brady and his wife, Sarah, the organization's founders. Jim Brady, who was press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, was shot in the head during the assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981. Jim Brady died in 2014. Sarah Brady died last year.


11:45 a.m.:

The father of a first-grader killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School is introducing President Barack Obama's speech on gun regulation.

Mark Barden's son, Daniel, was one of 20 students killed at the school three years ago.

Barden now helps lead a program called Sandy Hook Promise. The group seeks to prevent gun-related deaths through the enactment of what it calls "sensible gun violence prevention laws, policy and regulations." Several other parents of Sandy Hook children also participate in the group.

In the three years since the Sandy Hook shootings, Barden says, far too many lives have been lost to gun tragedies. He says that "as a nation, we have to do better."

Barden's group is particularly appreciative of Obama's focus on getting people more access to mental health care.


11:30 a.m.

More GOP candidates are chiming in with criticism of President Barack Obama's executive actions to tighten gun regulation in the U.S.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says Obama is "obsessed" with undermining the Second Amendment.

During a town hall-style meeting in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Rubio told reporters Tuesday that the president's new executive actions on guns undermine Americans' constitutional right to bear arms.

Rubio says he opposes gun violence but that the president's plans won't help prevent it. The GOP presidential candidate says he'll work to overturn the executive actions.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, for his part, is labeling Obama's actions "a blatant, belligerent abuse of power."


11 a.m.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says President Barack Obama is acting unlawfully and showing disregard for the Second Amendment with his actions on gun control.

Bush is panning Obama's set of measures in an op-ed in Iowa's Cedar Rapids Gazette. He's comparing the gun actions to Obama's executive action on immigration and says Obama is flouting the proper constitutional process for lawmaking.

Bush says it's even more important to defend gun rights because of Islamic State-linked attacks and mass shootings in Paris and California.

Obama is unveiling the new actions at the White House on Tuesday. He's aiming to expand background checks to cover more firearms by requiring more people to register as federally licensed gun dealers.

Bush and his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have said they'll undo Obama's actions if elected.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama moved Monday to expand background checks to cover more firearms sold at gun shows, online and anywhere else, aiming to curb a scourge of gun violence despite unyielding opposition to new laws in Congress.

Obama's plan to broaden background checks forms the centerpiece of a broader package of gun control measures the president plans to take on his own in his final year in office. Although Obama can't unilaterally change gun laws, the president is hoping that beefing up enforcement of existing laws can prevent at least some gun deaths in a country rife with them.

"This is not going to solve every violent crime in this country," Obama said. Still, he added, "It will potentially save lives and spare families the pain of these extraordinary losses."

Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers, but many who sell guns at flea markets, on websites or in other informal settings don't register as dealers. Gun control advocates say that loophole is exploited to skirt the background check requirement.

Now, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will issue updated guidance that says the government should deem anyone "in the business" of selling guns to be a dealer, regardless of where he or she sells the guns. To that end, the government will consider other factors, including how many guns a person sells and how frequently, and whether those guns are sold for a profit.

The executive actions on gun control fall far short of what Obama and likeminded lawmakers attempted to accomplish with legislation in 2013, after a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that shook the nation's conscience. Even still, the more modest measures were sure to spark legal challenges from those who oppose any new impediments to buying guns.

"We're very comfortable that the president can legally take these actions," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Obama's announcement was hailed by Democratic lawmakers and gun control groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which claimed Obama was making history with "bold and meaningful action" that would make all Americans safer. Hillary Clinton, at a rally in Iowa, said she was "so proud" of Obama but warned that the next president could easily undo his changes.

"I won't wipe it away," Clinton said.

But Republicans were quick to accuse Obama of gross overreach. Sen Bob Corker, R-Tenn., denounced Obama's steps as "divisive and detrimental to real solutions."

"I will work with my colleagues to respond appropriately to ensure the Constitution is respected," Corker said.

Far from mandating background checks for all gun sales, the new guidance still exempts collectors and gun hobbyists, and the exact definition of who must register as a dealer and conduct background checks remains exceedingly vague. The administration did not issue a number for how many guns someone must sell to be considered a dealer, instead saying it planned to remind people that courts have deemed people to be dealers in some cases even if they only sell a handful of guns.

And the background check provision rests in the murky realm of agency guidelines, which have less force than full-fledged federal regulations and can easily be rescinded. Many of the Republican presidential candidates running to succeed Obama have vowed to rip up his new gun restrictions upon taking office.

In an attempt to prevent gun purchases from falling through the cracks, the FBI will hire 230 more examiners to process background checks, the White House said, an increase of about 50 percent. Many of the roughly 63,000 background check requests each day are processed within seconds. But if the system kicks back a request for further review, the government only has three days before federal law says the buyer can return and buy the gun without being cleared.

That weak spot in the system came under scrutiny last summer when the FBI revealed that Dylann Roof, the accused gunman in the Charleston, S.C., church massacre, was improperly allowed to buy a gun because incomplete record-keeping and miscommunication among authorities delayed processing of his background check beyond the three-day limit.

The White House also said it planned to ask Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care, and Obama issued a memorandum directing federal agencies to conduct or sponsor research into smart gun technology that reduces the risk of accidental gun discharges. The Obama administration also plans to complete a rule, already in the works, to close another loophole that allows trusts or corporations to purchase sawed-off shotguns, machine guns and similar weapons without background checks.

Obama planned to announce the new measures at an event at the White House on Tuesday as he continued a weeklong push to promote the gun effort and push back on its critics.

He met at the White House on Monday with Democratic lawmakers who have supported stricter gun control, and planned to take his argument to prime time Thursday with a televised town hall discussion. The initiative also promised to be prominent in Obama's final State of the Union address next week.

Whether the new steps will effectively prevent future gun deaths remained unclear. Philip Cook, a Duke University professor who researches gun violence and policy, said surveys of prisoners don't show gun shows to be a major direct source of weapons used in violent crime. The attorney general, asked how many dealers would be newly forced to register, declined to give a number.

"It's just impossible to predict," Lynch said.


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Alicia A. Caldwell and Stacy A. Anderson in Washington and Ken Thomas in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report.

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