US President Barack Obama on Tuesday laid out sets of executive actions towards stricter gun control and urged Americans to vote for presidential candidates who have the same stance on the issue, tearing up while recounting past mass shootings that resulted in child casualties.
Obama said his administration will require more gun sellers to get licenses and more gun buyers to undergo background checks.
In an emotional plea during which he was surrounded by the family members of shooting victims, Obama said the constitutional right of Americans to bear arms matters, however this needs to be balanced by the right of people to worship, gather peacefully and live their lives.
Under the changes, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will narrow exceptions to gun ownership legalisation to prevent exploitation of the loopholes of the system.
Normally gunsellers are required to check with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine whether buyers have criminal records, are charged with crimes or have mental health conditions that would bar them from owning a gun.
However, an exception that allows hobbyists and collectors to avoid necessary background checks is exploited by some gunsellers. Obama said the sellers get around gun control procedures by selling guns at gun shows and online.
Obama has often said his toughest time in office was grappling with the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," Obama said, tears rolling down his cheek.
"That changed me, that day," he said, after being introduced by Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son was killed in the shooting. "My hope earnestly has been that it would change the country."
Following the speech, the National Rifle Association said Obama's new gun proposals are "ripe for abuse" by the government, and the powerful gun lobby group vowed to continue to fight to protect Americans' constitutional rights to bear arms.
"The American people do not need more emotional, condescending lectures that are completely devoid of facts," Chris Cox, executive director for the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
Earlier, Obama posted a tweet on his personal account criticising Congress for cooperating with the gun lobby.
The gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage, but they can't hold America hostage. We can't accept this carnage in our communities.
— President Obama (@POTUS) January 4, 2016
Any changes to gun rules in America are fraught with political risk. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution gives Americans the right to own arms, a right that is fiercely defended.
Obama says measures consistent with the constitution
Republicans accuse Obama of misusing his powers to bypass Congress with the executive measures.
On the other hand, Obama says measures are consistent with the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.
"These are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they're also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support," Obama said during a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other advisers.
According to federal records, there were 52,000 firearms incidents in 2015 across the country resulting in 13,312 deaths and leaving around 27,000 people injured. Of these 330 were mass shootings in which at least four people were shot.
Earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, "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."
Catherine Frazier, spokesman for Texan US Senator and Republican Party presidential candidate Ted Cruz, this weekend called Obama's plan "complete lunacy," and on Monday said that the president "is once again going to abuse his power to try seize our guns."
Hillary Clinton, who is a candidate for the presidency of the United States in the 2016 election, says that she backs Obama’s new push.
"We've got to act," she said, "but I don't think that's enough and I think we're going to have to keep pushing forward on the political front and I intend to do that, to take on the gun lobby and to work with responsible gun owners."
In 2008 the US Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individual Americans to keep and bear arms. But the court also recognised that laws imposing conditions on commercial gun sales can be consistent with the Second Amendment.