‘Petulant child’: Republicans take aim at Obama’s gun control plans
As US President Barack Obama presses forward with his efforts to establish further gun control, Republican presidential candidates have come out against the initiative with all guns blazing.
Obama is expected to sign off on a number of proposals aimed at limiting gun violence this week, following a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday.
The president has made gun control a key aspect of his final months in office, as the US continues to experience mass shootings with alarming frequency.
Obama has made weary and increasingly frustrated speeches in the wake of such attacks, highlighting the US position on gun control as lagging behind any other developed nation. Since the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, Obama has taken an increased interest in new gun laws.
Congress is likely to block the latest efforts, and the president is said to be seeking alternative ways around this, including executive orders.
“This president is a petulant child,” said New Jersey governor Chris Christie, one of the contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, on Sunday. “The fact is if he wants to make changes to these laws, go to Congress and convince the Congress that they’re necessary. But this is going to be another illegal executive action which I’m sure will be rejected by the courts,” Christie told Fox’s Chris Wallace.
Christie has backed some gun control measures in the past, including banning gun purchases by those on the terror watchlist and supporting the ban on selling weapons to accused domestic abusers.
Donald Trump told CBS he would reverse any executive orders and veto gun regulations if he is elected. “We have plenty of rules and regulations. It's plenty of things they can do right now that are already there. They don't do them," he said.
Jeb Bush has also criticized Obama, saying the gun show loophole does not exist and that “people who want to occasionally sell guns should be able to do so.”
Under the current laws, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) carries out background checks on individuals purchasing firearms from federally licensed gun sellers. However, private and gun show sales are largely exempt from the background checks.
Bush was once in favor of instant background checks at gun shows, but has since said that such a top-down approach would not work.
Marco Rubio has promised to reverse any executive action on gun violence. “On my first day in office, behind that desk, don’t worry, those orders are gone,” he told a crowd in New Hampshire on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Ted Cruz raffled off a rifle engraved with the Ted Cruz logo.
Among the gun controls reportedly considered by the Obama administration are the expansion of background checks and ensuring more sellers become licensed. The US is divided on the issue of gun control, with the influential NRA lobby a powerful force on both sides of the congressional aisle.
Republican candidates are in a position where they must appease the NRA and gun-loving donors, despite some being in favor of gun restrictions in the past.
Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has adopted a stance favoring restrictions on gun control, in what could be seen as an effort to differentiate herself from her rival for the nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In the 2008 election, Clinton positioned herself as more conservative than Obama, changing her mind on a national registry and reminiscing on learning to shoot as a child.
Sanders has voted against gun regulations in the past, reportedly due to the large gun-owning population in Vermont, but supports background checks for gun shows and online sales.
In the weekly White House address on January 1, Obama discussed “one piece of unfinished business, our epidemic of gun violence.”
Three years ago, a bipartisan bill required background checks for all people who buy a gun. “The gun lobby mobilized and the Senate blocked it,” Obama said.
“The gun lobby is loud and well-organized in its defense of effortlessly available guns for everyone. The rest of us will have to be passionate and as well-organized in our defense of our kids.”