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Obama Meets with the US Attorney General to Take Gun Control into His Own Hands

The president moves towards taking action on gun control — but he may not manage to accomplish a lot.
Photo via Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

President Barack Obama, officially fed up with trying to get any gun control measures through the Republican-controlled Congress, is taking matters into his own hands to enact gun control measures during his last year in office.

Obama announced during his first weekly radio address of the year that he will meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI director James Comey on Monday afternoon to discuss the options available for executive action on gun control. The meeting comes after the White House spent the past month researching the issue and what federal measures, if any, might reduce gun violence in the US.


"All across America, survivors of gun violence and those who lost a child, a parent, a spouse to gun violence are forced to mark such awful anniversaries every single day," Obama said in his Friday address. "And yet Congress still hasn't done anything to prevent what happened to them from happening to other families."

Obama did not give specifics on what would be discussed at the meeting, but the three reportedly plan to talk about expanding background checks for gun buyers and requiring more gun sellers to be licensed as dealers, according to Reuters. Redefining what is an official gun dealer would cut down on loopholes that allow purchasers to illicitly buy and transfer firearms, many of which are sold at gun shows.

"Each time, we're told that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, so we shouldn't do anything," Obama said. "We know that we can't stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one? What if Congress did something – anything – to protect our kids from gun violence?"

Obama's meeting today is part of a broader appeal directly to the American public by conducting a series of public speeches and events calling attention to the issue of gun violence. On Thursday, Obama will be hosting a live town-hall discussion where he will answer questions from the audience, broadcast live at 8pm ET.

But whether Obama can actually do anything on gun control without the approval of lawmakers remains to be seen. Many advocates of increased firearm regulations expected that the 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that left 26 people dead, including 20 young children, would be the tipping point for gun laws in the United States.


So did Obama. In the wake of Newtown, he pushed for a bill that sought to impose restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and expand background checks for buyers. At the beginning of his second term in office, Obama vowed to "put everything I've got into this."

But lawmakers ended up blocking the proposed bill, and federal gun control efforts have been stalled since.

It is not clear if Obama's efforts to unilaterally impose what he calls "common-sense" gun control laws will be any more successful this time or if he is even legally allowed to do much, something which Republican presidential candidates have been quick to jump on.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said on Fox News Sunday that "this president wants to act as if he's a king, as if he's a dictator. This is going to be another illegal executive action, which I'm sure will be rejected by the courts."

Donald Trump said at a rally over the weekend that, as president, he would "unsign that so fast" — referring to any executive action Obama might take on gun control.

Fellow Republican candidate Jeb Bush called Obama's efforts "reckless" and "dangerous."

"His first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens, and it's wrong," Bush said on the same Fox show yesterday. "And to use executive powers he doesn't have is a pattern that is quite dangerous."

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928