January 16, 2013

Obama to unveil gun violence measures today

Erica Werner and Julie Pace / The Associated Press

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Confronting a deeply divided Congress, President Barack Obama plans to move forward on his own authority to take some steps to curb the nation's gun violence.

AP

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The president's framework is based on recommendations from Vice President Joe Biden, who led a wide-ranging task force on gun violence. The vice president's proposals included 19 steps that could be achieved through executive action.

Obama also may order the Justice Department to crack down on people who lie on gun-sale background checks; only a tiny number are now prosecuted. Such a step has support from the National Rifle Association, which has consistently argued that existing laws must be enforced before new ones are considered.

And Obama may give schools flexibility to use grant money to improve safety.

Gun control proponent Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who met with Biden on Monday, said the president is also likely to take executive action to ensure better state reporting of mental health and other records that go into the federal background check database. But he, too, acknowledged there were clear limits to what Obama can do without Congress' say-so.

"You can't change the law through executive order," Scott said.

White House officials signaled that Obama would seek to rally public support for the measures he puts forward, perhaps holding events around the country or relying on Organizing for America, his still-operational presidential campaign.

Still, it's unclear how much political capital Obama will exert in pressing for congressional action.

The White House and Congress will soon be consumed by three looming fiscal deadlines. And the president has also pledged to tackle comprehensive immigration reform early this year, another effort that will require Republicans' support and one in which Obama may be more likely to get their backing.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has warned the White House that it will be at least three months before the Senate considers gun legislation. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said immigration, not gun control, is at the top of his priority list after the fiscal fights.

House Republican leaders are expected to wait for any action by the Senate before deciding how — or whether — to proceed with any gun measure.

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