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Republican candidates criticize a possible move from Obama on gun control

President Obama's plan to impose new controls on gun sales in an effort to lessen gun violence drew sharp fire Sunday from Republican presidential candidates, who argued he lacked authority to enact the restrictions by executive order.

Obama, who for years has unsuccessfully sought to persuade Congress to strengthen gun laws, is scheduled to meet Monday with Atty. Gen. Loretta Lynch to review possible actions he can take that will withstand legal challenges.

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"We know that we can't stop every act of violence," Obama said in his weekly radio address. "But what if we tried to stop even one?"

Administration officials said Obama was considering an executive order that, among other steps, would require background checks for those who buy firearms at gun shows, a proposal that gun rights advocates have long blocked in Congress.

After the Oct. 1 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Obama ordered the Justice Department to look for ways he might impose tougher restrictions by executive authority.

White House lawyers and policy advisors are studying how he might interpret existing law or strengthen regulations to require more background checks to weed out violent felons and mentally ill people as they try to buy guns.

The push for new measures to make it harder for felons and the mentally ill to acquire firearms took on new urgency at the White House after the attack that left 14 people dead in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, officials said.

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Police have said Enrique Marquez Jr. legally purchased two semiautomatic rifles that were used in the massacre.

But Marquez faces federal criminal charges for allegedly transferring the weapons to his friends, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, who were gunned down by police after the attack at the Inland Regional Center.

Obama's past efforts to persuade Congress to pass stricter gun laws, including a massive push after 26 children and adults were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, have failed despite repeated mass shootings.

The issue is likely to dominate Obama's first week back at the White House after a family holiday in Hawaii, and will probably generate heated debate in the final weeks before voters in Iowa cast the first votes of the 2016 election season.

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Several Republicans focused their criticism of Obama on his possible use of executive orders, rather than on proposals to make it harder for felons, the mentally ill and potential terrorists to acquire guns.

"I don't like anything to do with changing our 2nd Amendment," Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner in many polls, said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Obama "just goes and signs executive orders on everything."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," called Obama "a petulant child" who sidesteps Congress "whenever he can't get what he wants."

He added, "This is going to be another illegal executive action, which I'm sure will be rejected by the courts, and when I become president will be stricken from executive action."

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, called Obama's possible use of an executive order "completely inappropriate."

"His first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens," Bush said, also on "Fox News Sunday." "And it's wrong. And to use executive powers that he doesn't have is a pattern that's quite dangerous."

david.cloud@latimes.com

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A version of this article appeared in print on January 04, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "GOP hopefuls criticize Obama on gun control" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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