White House unveils new gun control measures
WASHINGTON - The White House is flexing its muscles on gun control, announcing two executive orders on Thursday that will close a loophole enabling convicted felons to acquire deadly firearms without a background check and keep surplus U.S. military weapons off American streets.
The new executive orders are part of a list of 23 steps U.S. President Barack Obama is taking on his own to curtail gun violence in a country with an enduring and historical affection for firearms. Although far from radical, the new measures sparked immediate condemnation from U.S. gun rights activists.
The initiatives, to be implemented without congressional approval, come four months after Obama failed to push tougher gun control measures through the Senate in the face of vehement opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association and most of the Republican lawmakers backed by the organization.
"The president and I are going to continue to do work with the Congress to continue to strengthen gun safety laws in this country," said Vice-President Joe Biden, Obama's pointman on gun control since last year's horrific mass shooting in rural Connecticut that left 21 six- and seven-year-olds dead.
"If Congress doesn't act, we'll fight for a new Congress. It's that simple," said Biden at the swearing-in ceremony for the new head of the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bureau (ATF). "But we're going to get this done. We're going to get this done."
In a fact sheet announcing the executive orders, the White House said Obama and Biden "remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence."
The NRA, meantime, condemned the White House.
"This administration should get serious about prosecuting violent criminals who misuse guns and stop focusing its efforts on law-abiding gun owners," said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.
The NRA has long insisted it merely advocates for the constitutional right to bear arms for average American citizens. In recent years, however, there's been increasing evidence that the lobby group receives major funding from gun manufacturers and private security firms.
Social media, predictably, erupted with gun rights supporters accusing Obama of thumbing his nose at the U.S. Constitution and warning that the federal government is scheming to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens.
Yet one of the executive orders is aimed specifically at convicted felons or domestic abusers prohibited from possessing firearms like machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. …