Obama: U.S. Needs ‘Sense of Urgency’ to Fight Gun Violence

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President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the United States must feel a "sense of urgency" in addressing the wave of mass shootings in recent years. "We do have to feel a sense of urgency about it," Obama said from the White House, surrounded by gun violence victims and their families.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — 12:09 p.m. – President Barack Obama said Tuesday that despite his executive actions bypassing Congress on guns, lawmakers still need to address the issue.

“Congress still needs to act,” Obama said from the White House, surrounded by victims of gun violence and their families. “The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence a whole lot.”

“But we also can’t wait,” Obama added. “Until we have the Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives.”

12:04 p.m. – Obama defended his actions to strengthen background checks for purchasing guns, answering critics who say the measure would not make it harder for criminals to obtain firearms.

“Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying,” Obama said. “I reject that thinking.”

“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence,” he added.

11:58 a.m. – Obama said Tuesday that his new executive actions aimed at fighting gun violence do not conflict with the Second Amendment.

“I believe in the Second Amendment, there written on paper, that guarantees the right to bear arms,” Obama said. “No matter how many times people try to twist my words around, that’s our constitutional law. I know a little bit about this. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.”

Obama answered his critics, adding “this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns.”

11:55 a.m. – Obama said Tuesday that the United States must feel a “sense of urgency” in addressing the wave of mass shootings in recent years.

“We do have to feel a sense of urgency about it,” Obama said from the White House, surrounded by gun violence victims and their families. “In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the fierce urgency of now.”

Obama is unveiling a series of executive actions meant to stem gun violence.

Original story: President Barack Obama on Tuesday will bypass Capitol Hill and unveil a unilateral initiative designed to curb gun violence in the U.S. through a series of executive actions.

In an effort to expand background checks for buyers, the White House will introduce a new requirement for individuals “in the business of selling firearms” to register as licensed gun dealers, effectively narrowing the so-called “gun show loophole,” which exempts most small sellers from keeping formal sales records.

Obama was greeted by a standing ovation when he began speaking shortly before noon, explaining his new orders. Mark Barden, a father of one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, introduced Obama.

Barden in his introduction spoke of how Obama’s administration made a commitment to fight widespread gun violence.

“Today, we celebrate another example of how President Obama and Vice President Biden continue to keep that promise,” Barden said.

Former Congresswoman and gun control advocate Gabby Giffords is in attendance and was greeted with a standing ovation from the White House audience.

White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett defended Obama’s plans Tuesday, saying the President’s actions are “well within the existing statute.”

“The President isn’t circumventing Congress — he is doing what is clearly in his authority to do,” Jarrett told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, during an interview on “New Day.”

“Ultimately the best solution would be for Congress to act,” Jarrett said. “But the President is determined to do whatever is in his power to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office on Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch by his side, Obama insisted he was confident the actions would withstand the legal challenges already being lined up by conservative lawmakers and gun rights groups.

“These are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch,” he said. “But they are also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican, criticized the President’s plans for choosing executive action over working with Congress.

“While we don’t yet know the details of the plan, the President is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will,” Ryan said in a statement before Obama met with Lynch. “His proposals to restrict gun rights were debated by the United States Senate, and they were rejected. No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally.”

In addition to expanding and bolstering the background check system, the administration is also expected provide more funding for mental health treatment, FBI staff and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives agents.

Many polls have found broad support for expanded background checks — the most recent being a Quinnipiac University poll in December. In that survey, 89% overall support it, 84% in gun-owning households, 87% of Republicans, 86% of independent, 95% of Democrats.

In a December CNN/ORC poll, 48% of Americans said they were in favor of stricter gun control laws, 51% were opposed.

Support for stricter laws has been less than half since 2013. There’s a sharp partisan divide on the question, with 74% of Democrats in favor of stricter laws, while just 23% of Republicans feel the same way.

Among those who live in a gun-owning household, 29% favor stricter laws, that rises to 65% among those who live in households where no one owns a gun.

Just 35% approve of Obama’s handling of gun policy, including 56% of Democrats and 55% of liberals. That’s well below his approval rating among Democrats/liberals for other top issue.