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President Obama Announces New Measures to Reduce Gun Violence in Emotional Speech

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama introduced 10 new provisions aimed at reducing the gun violence he says is plaguing the entire country, as evidenced by the spate of mass shootings that have occurred over the last several years. He suggested that America has become “numb” to gun violence, expressing in an unusually emotional manner his feeling that “we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it.”

“Every single year more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Thirty thousand,” Obama said, speaking in front of a gathering of the friends and relatives of victims of gun violence. “Suicide, domestic violence, gang shootouts, accidents — hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children.”

The president had to wipe away a tear at one point when discussing the children shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” he said.

President Obama Speaks In The East Room Of White House On Efforts To Reduce Gun Violence
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

One of the biggest new provisions is targeted at closing the so-called gun show loophole, which enables certain gun sellers to skip background checks for certain sales. The new rule would require a background check for all gun sales. “This is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns,” Obama said. “You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm. The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules.”

Multiple Republican presidential contenders immediately denounced Obama’s plans, claiming he is simply trying to chip away at Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Even the president admitted that these executive actions are small steps, that Congress must step in and introduce legislation if there is to be a clearer, more meaningful change. But with a firmly pro-gun-rights GOP in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, that is highly unlikely.

Obama tried to bypass the inevitable politicization of his announcement. “Instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarizing, partisan debates,” he said, urging Americans who have in large majorities shown support for increased background checks — including members of the National Rifle Association — to speak up and come together on this issue.

“That’s why we’re here today,” Obama said, “not to debate the last shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one.”

Additional changes Obama proposed include increasing federal funding by $500 million for mental illness treatment and research; hiring more FBI workers to process background checks; and adding a unit at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to investigate illegal online gun deals.

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