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Tuesday morning , Pres. Barack Obama announced executive actions designed to curb gun violence. His controversial move begins the final year of an administration that has seen multiple mass shootings, including Fort Hood, Texas; Aurora, Colo.; Newtown, Conn.; and, most recently, San Bernardino, Calif.
Obama's actions close well-known loopholes in existing gun sales and procurement laws, working with states to ensure background checks are effective and comprehensive. The ATF and FBI will receive more money, personnel and enhanced tracking tools to work with states on keeping guns out of criminals' hands. In addition, investments will be made in mental health to prevent violence, and funds will go toward developing smart gun technology to make firearms themselves safer. Rolling out his plan, the President nodded to how divisive the issue of gun control is.
"Instead of thinking about how to solve this problem [of gun violence], this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates—despite the fact that there's general consensus in America about what needs to be done," he said.
As in other western states, the issue of gun control in the Gem State is particularly contentious. Idaho Second Amendment Alliance President Greg Pruett was skeptical that enhancing the background check process and closing loopholes in existing law would make an impact on the incidence of violent crime, and characterizing Obama's unilateral executive actions as "tyranny."
The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance has scheduled a demonstration in support of legalizing permitless carry in Idaho cities—the right to carry a firearm within city limits without a permit—for Feb. 20 at the Center on the Grove in Boise. Pruett said executive action on background checks for guns would impact turnout for the event.
"We're probably going to see a higher turnout because of what he's doing, and he's doing everything he can to curb the Second Amendment," he said.
Pruett isn't the only person who has qualms with the use of executive action on gun control. A statement provided by the office of Idaho Sen. Jim Risch decried Obama's move forward without authorization from Congress.
"I fully understand that the president and the left strongly disagree with congress' refusal to further restrict the rights of law-abiding gun owners but that is the right of the Congress, and indeed, it is their duty and constitutional responsibility to the people who elected them. Those who want stricter gun laws must do so by electing a pro-gun control Congress and not try unconstitutional lawmaking by the executive branch," Risch said.
Hannah Sharp, chapter leader for the Idaho chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, hailed the President's actions as a welcome first step toward reducing violent crime. She and MDAGSA collected signatures and started a letter-writing campaign to the White House urging action on the issue in 2015, and today's news, she said, validated that effort.
"It reflects his commitment that he's working to end gun violence. It just shows the impact of advocacy work that Moms has done in the past few years," she said.
Sharp said she and MDAGSA take a broad view of gun violence that includes accidental deaths, suicide and domestic abuse. Closing gun purchasing loopholes, she said, lengthens the time it takes for someone to obtain a gun, potentially reducing the incidence of firearm-related injury and death. The next step, she said, is to make background checks mandatory for all firearm purchases.
"Unfortunately the President's actions don't take that step, although it's a good first step leading to universal background checks," she said.