Obama to tackle ‘unfinished business’ despite US gun lobby

Obama accompanied by Gabrielle Giffords (left), vice president Joe Biden and family members of Newtown school shooting victims. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Obama accompanied by Gabrielle Giffords (left), vice president Joe Biden and family members of Newtown school shooting victims. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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US President Barack Obama will meet Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to discuss executive actions he could take to make it harder for “a dangerous few” to get their hands on guns.

Obama said on his weekly radio address that he gets so many letters from parents, teachers and children about the “epidemic of gun violence” that he can’t “sit around and do nothing”.

“The gun lobby is loud and well-organised in its defence of effortlessly available guns for anyone,” Obama said. “The rest of us are going to have to be just as passionate and well-organised in our defence of our kids.”

Obama recently directed staff at the White House to look into potential executive actions, such as expanding background checks.

Currently, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to seek background checks on potential firearm purchasers. But advocacy groups say some of the people who sell firearms at gun shows are not federally licensed, increasing the chance of sales to customers prohibited by law from purchasing guns.

A source familiar with the administration’s efforts said Obama is expected to take executive action next week that would set a “reasonable threshold” for when sellers have to seek a background check.

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The source, a member of a gun control advocacy group, was not authorised to discuss details before the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. White House officials won’t confirm the timing.

The president is in Hawaii for his annual holiday with his family.

In his efforts to work around a Congress that has often been politically gridlocked during his time as president, Obama has made aggressive use of executive power, particularly on immigration. It has been an increasingly effective and politically accepted presidential tool.

While legal scholars are divided on whether Obama has accelerated or merely continued a drift of power toward the executive branch, there is little debate that he has paved a path for his successor.

The National Rifle Association opposes expanded background check systems. The organisation’s Institute for Legislative Action says studies have shown that people sent to state prison because of gun crimes typically get guns through theft, the black market or family and friends.

Obama has consistently expressed frustration after mass shootings, saying it shouldn’t be so easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.

Going into his final year in office, Obama said his New Year’s resolution is to move forward on unfinished business.