Obama outlines plan to tighten US gun laws amid fierce opposition

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Jan 05, 2016 10:20 IST
FILE - In this June 26, 2015 file photo, President Barack Obama sings "Amazing Grace" during services honouring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was among those killed during the shootings at Charleston last year. The president has begun 2016 with clear intentions to tighten gun control laws, a move that has been highly divisive in the past. (AP Photo)

The White House outlined on Monday an ambitious plan to expand background checks for buyers of firearms and increase funding for mental health treatment and law enforcement agencies.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to announced it in remarks from the White House on Tuesday at 10PM (IST), flanked by victims of gun violence and his vice-president, Joe Biden.

But critics were on it already — calling it presidential overreach, unconstitutional or just plain more-show-than-action— demonstrating why gun control continues to defy reason.

Obama addressed the Constitutional issue on Monday saying these changes are “well within my legal authority”, and, he added, they are supported by most Americans, including gun owners.

His plan will make it mandatory for anyone selling firearms — which remains loosely defined — to be licensed and allowed to sell only to customers who have been thoroughly checked.

Read: US President Obama’s gun control options have legal pitfalls

The proposal aims to plug a loophole in current law that allows gun shows and fairs and online sellers to sell to buyers without adequate background checks.

The Obama administration also proposes investing $500 million on mental health treatment, which, experts pointed out, was an attempt to address a pet peeve of the pro-gun lobby.

They argue that guns don’t people. Most mass murders, including Newtown killer Adam Lanza and Tucson gunman Jared Lee Loughner, they say were mentally ill.

As they were, indeed. But gun control proponents have called for stricter gun control measures to prevent guns from falling into wrong hands, such as those mentally ill.

Lanza’s mother, a single parent, kept high calibre weapons at home despite the fact that her son was diagnosed with mental disorder, and refused medication prescribed by doctors.

Read: 264th US mass shooting this year, angry Obama attacks gun politics

Over 150,000 people died in gun-related homicide in the United States from 2001 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, a government agency.

Terrorism, on the other hand, claimed the lives of over 3,000 Americans between 2001 and 2014, according to Global Terrorism Database, a University of Maryland initiative.

Gun control remains a bitterly contested issue, though, despite the massacre of 20 first-graders and six adult staff members in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

But here are a few things what the plan won’t do, according to experts: it won’t make access to firearms any more difficult than it is now, or bring down the number of victims.

But it’s a start, even if a little ambitious.

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