Obama Takes Executive Steps to Reduce Gun Violence

The White House during the dayIn an emotion-driven speech from the White House today, President Barack Obama formally introduced several executive measures in an attempt to reduce gun violence, including more comprehensive background checks on people purchasing guns through dealers.

Following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 children and educators were killed, Congress opposed a bill from Obama seeking to close what he called gun show loopholes that allowed guns to be purchased online and at gun shows without background checks on the buyers. Now, Obama is taking executive action in the form of four steps toward ensuring only law-abiding citizens without a history of violence are allowed to purchase guns.

The four main points include:

  • Background checks: All gun sellers will be required to have a federal license and perform extensive background checks on anyone wishing to purchase a gun. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will work to overhaul and update the current background check system.
  • Enforcement: The FBI will hire at least 230 more people in order to process background checks more efficiently. Along with improving America’s existing gun laws, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will also hire 200 more agents and investigators.
  • Mental health: Obama proposed investing $500 million to expand access to treatment for people with a mental health condition. He said this would also require work in destigmatizing mental health issues and removing barriers that keep states from reporting information about people barred from purchasing guns for mental health reasons.
  • Updated technology: The Departments of Defense, Justice, and Homeland Security will conduct or sponsor research into technology advancements in gun safety, including guns that can only be operated by an authorized user.

Over the past decade, more than 100,000 Americans have died as a result of gun violence, according to the White House. This includes domestic violence incidents, accidents, gang violence, and suicide, among other occurrences. Suicide alone counts for 2 in 3 gun deaths, Obama said.

The new regulations will require firearms dealers to report more lost and stolen guns, and the Social Security Administration will expand background checks to include information about beneficiaries who are barred from possessing a gun for mental health reasons.

Though Obama recognized these regulations may not prevent every future death from gun violence, he also highlighted the importance of taking steps that could reduce the frequency of gun deaths.

“The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence,” Obama said. “But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”

The president will discuss these new executive measures again Thursday at a televised town hall event with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and next Tuesday as part of his State of the Union address.


  1. Cillizza, C. (2016, January 5). President Obama’s amazingly emotional speech on gun control. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/05/president-obamas-amazingly-emotional-speech-on-gun-control-annotated/?tid=sm_fb#annotations:8473862
  2. Somanader, T. (2016, January 5). Live Updates: What the President is Doing to Keep Guns Out of the Wrong Hands. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/01/04/live-updates-what-president-doing-keep-guns-out-wrong-hands

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  • Glenn

    January 6th, 2016 at 11:16 AM

    What I take from this is that at least we are now having a national conversation about the fact that something has to be done. These steps may or may not prevent future mass shootings but I sure would hope that it will make it harder for those who do not need to have a gun to get one.

  • Fredric D. Shulman, Ph.D

    January 9th, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    I am a Lifetime Member of the NRA. I am also a husband, father, psychotherapist and edcator. Until we keep guns out of the hands of the emotionally unstable, nothing will change! Period! Background checks, meaningful background checks and required periodic practice, for both short and long arms…must happen. Otherwise, as a country…as a society, we are finished. I definitely believe in the right of every American, to possess firearms..but in some kind of meaningful organized way. Wake up Mr. LaPierre. Smell the roses, because if you don’t, thinks will only get worse. And I am a gun fan. But enough is enough! Fred Shulman, Ph.D.

  • ben

    January 9th, 2016 at 10:15 AM

    doesn’t change society’s view though on the fact that there are too many people who want to stock their homes like arsenals :/

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