Since the launch of a “We Can’t Wait” campaign in October 2011, the U.S. president has finally turned to significant administrative steps to bypass Congress and act on contentious issues, including immigration, welfare, education reform and now gun violence, Reuters reports.
In the wake of December’s mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Mr Obama announced 23 executive actions aimed to ensure guns don’t get into the wrong hands.
He also urged Congress to ban the sale of assault rifles as well as to limit the size of ammunition clips and require background checks for all gun sales.
“Increasingly, what we’re seeing is a lot of the policy-making apparatus of the federal government shifting to the executive branch,” said William Howell, a University of Chicago expert on presidential powers.
However, President Obama is already criticized by gun rights groups who have accused him of an unconstitutional power grab.
“It’s definitely not appropriate for the president to act unilaterally,” said Erich Pratt, director of communications for the Gun Owners of America.
Speaking of the dozens of children killed in the Sandy School in December as well as others mass shooting that have shaken the country, Mr Obama stressed that the nation must do a better job of protecting its children, especially when they are in public places.
As CNN writes, while some of the steps proposed by the president are given little chance of winning congressional approval in the face of the nation’s powerful gun lobby, Obama said the primary aim now is to reduce chronic gun violence in the country.
“This is our first task as a society – keeping our children safe,” President Obama said, adding that saving even one life would make the changes he seeks worth the effort.
Obama’s proposals have been immediately rejected by Republicans as an attack on the constitutional right to bear arms.
“Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook,” said a statement by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, considered an up-and-coming GOP leader.
“President Obama is targeting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence.”
Meanwhile, National Rifle Association promised to cooperate with Congress in order to find what it called “real solutions to protecting America’s most valuable asset – our children.”
“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation,” the NRA said in a statement. “Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”
NRA President David Keene said the “Second Amendment is going to survive” Obama’s efforts on gun control.
“What we want to see is what they really have in mind. They’ve got bullet points. There’s going to be a lot more to it than that,” Keene said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”
The U.S. president responded to accusations, explaining that he seeks to violate gun rights untrue. He went on, adding that opponents want to wage a campaign of intimidation and fear instead of working with him for needed changes.
“We can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale,” Mr Obama said.