From ROLL CALL
Senior congressional aides and sources in the gun-control community expect the White House to use its executive powers to tighten federal gun laws shortly after President Barack Obama returns from a Hawaiian vacation in early January.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday he anticipates a legal review to continue through the holidays.
Since the deadly shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., White House officials have been, as Earnest has put it, “scrubbing through the law” to determine whether and how Obama can use his constitutional authorities to make it harder for terrorists and other potential mass shooters to legally obtain firearms.
On both sides of the Capitol, sources involved in the guns debate say, as one senior House GOP leadership aide put it, “something is brewing on guns.”
The hot-button issue returned to the front burner of American politics following the lethal Islamic State-inspired California shooting.
Since, however, Republican lawmakers have blocked Democratic measures on stiffening gun laws; and Democrats have kept a mental health bill the GOP has tied to mass shootings from passing, saying they would rather close loopholes in gun laws first.
A recent CNN/ORC poll suggests the American public is siding with GOP arguments. The survey found a majority (52 percent) of those polled oppose tighter gun laws. And a Washington Post/ABC News poll found 53 percent are against the assault weapons ban the White House has endorsed.
So far, the White House is keeping its plans — and the details of its legal review — under wraps. But sources say the administration is zeroing in on the definition of just who is in the gun sales realm.
“What we expect is that they are going to better define what it means to be ‘in the business’ of selling firearms,” said a source with knowledge of the administration’s thinking. Congressional aides say they are hearing similar rumblings.
Under current laws, only licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks on those trying to buy guns. What’s more, the only individuals considered “in the business” are ones who must apply to be dealers — but that leaves countless people selling firearms without registering.
“Currently many people, even those who sell tons of guns each year, just say that they aren’t ‘in the business,’ or ‘it’s just a hobby,’ in order to get out of the licensing and its attendant background check requirement,” the source told Roll Call. “Because what ‘in the business’ means is so unclear, it’s very difficult and thus very rare for people to be prosecuted under this standard. Read More