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Obama Outlines New Rules For Gun Sales In The U.S.


President Obama gave an emotional and partisan speech on one of the most controversial subjects in American politics - guns. He was announcing a new set of executive actions to reduce gun violence. The proposals might be modest, but the response to the proposals in Washington and on the Republican presidential campaign trail is not. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The president has called for stricter gun control legislation repeatedly and unsuccessfully. Now with about 12 months left in office, he's taking action on his own to tighten the background check system. He said the Second Amendment's right to bear arms had to be balanced with other rights, such as the right to worship freely taken away from the Christians gunned down at a church in Charleston or, he said...


BARACK OBAMA: Our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights were stripped from college kids in Blacksburg, in Santa Barbara and from high schoolers at Columbine and from first graders in Newtown.

LIASSON: Then President Obama paused to wipe away tears.


OBAMA: Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.

LIASSON: The president's critics were mad, too. In Congress, Republican House speaker Paul Ryan said Mr. Obama was governing by executive fiat. And Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump described the president's actions as the first step on a slippery slope.

DONALD TRUMP: Pretty soon, you won't be able to get guns. I mean, it's another step in the way of not getting guns.

LIASSON: Mr. Obama took on his critics directly.


OBAMA: This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns. You pass a background check. You purchase a firearm. The problem is, some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked.

LIASSON: The measures announced today would clarify who is in the business of selling guns. The goal is to require background checks wherever someone buys a gun - on the Internet, at a gun show or in a store. The president's new actions would also allow federal mental health records to be submitted to the background check system, and they would boost research on gun safety technology like fingerprint trigger locks and apps to track stolen or lost guns. Republican presidential candidates describe the president's actions as a threat to the Constitution. Marco Rubio said Barack Obama was obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment, and he promised, if elected, to reverse the measures.


MARCO RUBIO: And so these new rulings that he's coming out with that limit and undermine the Second Amendment - on my first day in office, they're gone.

LIASSON: The president was equally partisan. He attacked Republicans in Congress who he said, even after the San Bernardino terrorist attacks, refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can't get on a plane to buy semiautomatic weapons.


OBAMA: The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage.


OBAMA: We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom.

LIASSON: Mr. Obama said gun-control supporters should vote against members of Congress who block expanded gun safety laws. If you make it harder to win an election, he said, they'll change course; promise you. Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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