President Barack Obama is expected to take executive action next week to expand background checks on gun sales, according to an individual whose gun control advocacy group has been briefed by administration officials about the timing.
The person was not authorized to discuss details before the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity. White House officials won’t confirm the timing. Spokesman Eric Schultz said the president would prefer that Congress act, but he knows that prospect is unlikely.
“That is why he has asked his team to scrub existing legal authorities to see if there’s any additional action we can take administratively,” Schultz said Thursday. “The president has made clear he’s not satisfied with where we are, and expects that work to be completed soon.”
White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said earlier in December that recommendations being submitted to Obama will include measures to expand background checks. The president has consistently expressed frustration after mass shootings, saying it shouldn’t be so easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun.
Currently, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to seek background checks on potential firearm purchasers. But advocacy groups say some of the people who sell firearms at gun shows are not federally licensed, increasing the chance of sales to customers prohibited by law from purchasing a gun.
The source familiar with the administration’s efforts said the executive action is expected to set a “reasonable threshold” for when sellers have to seek a background check. That person didn’t know whether it would be based on the number of guns sold or revenue generated through gun sales.
The National Rifle Association opposes expanded background check systems. The organization’s Institute for Legislative Action says studies have shown that people sent to state prison because of gun crimes typically get guns through theft, the black market or family and friends.
Also, many purchases by criminals are made from straw purchasers who pass background checks. “No amount of background checks can stop these criminals,” says the group’s website.