President Barack Obama, joined by gun violence vuctims, speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. Also on stage are stakeholders, and individuals whose lives have been impacted by the gun violence.
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Local reactions

* Rep. Chuck Fleischmann — "Yet again the President has taken to grandstanding instead of addressing real issues. Rather than focusing on criminals and terrorists, these executive actions go after the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. As a House Appropriator, I have led successful efforts to defund his previous anti-gun executive actions and I will work to do the same with these."

* Sen. Bob Corker — "It's not hard to understand why so many Tennesseans fear that the president will abuse his authority and act in a way that infringes upon their Second Amendment rights," said Corker. "Like most Americans, I want to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and dangerous mentally ill people, but the president's expected unilateral actions would be divisive and detrimental to real solutions. After reviewing the details, I will work with my colleagues to respond appropriately to ensure the Constitution is respected."

* Rep. Scott DesJarlais — "Infringing upon law-abiding Americans' Second Amendment rights will do nothing to curb gun violence. Rather, President Obama should focus on real threats to our safety like radical Islamic terrorists."

* Sen. Lamar Alexander — "First, the president should send his proposal to Congress instead of making yet another end run around it. Second, I will look closely at any proposed gun control with a single focus—to determine whether it infringes upon or strengthens Second Amendment constitutional rights."

* Rep. Andy Holt — "Essentially, if the feds want to enforce the law, then they can come here and do it themselves. You and your friends on the Left often yell and scream while calling those who support this type of resistance to federal power "neo-confederates" and so on. However, your friends seem more than willing to practice resistance to federal power when it comes to Colorado's marijuana operation, or California's sanctuary cities, and you are more than willing to look the other way while it happens. Therefore, the State of Tennessee is more than willing to tell you Mr. President, if you want to enforce your unconstitutional executive orders... come on down to Rocky Top and do it yourself."

* Rep. Stephen Fincher — "President Obama has no business trampling on our Second Amendment rights. The President's decision to punish law-abiding Americans is nothing more than an ongoing diversion tactic used to draw attention away from his inability to keep Americans safe from terror attacks. On his watch, there have been seven major Islamic terror strikes on U.S. soil in the last seven years. Instead of continuing to double down on his own failed policies, the President should be focused on implementing a comprehensive strategy to defeat radical Islamic terrorism – one that doesn't involve stripping law abiding citizens of their Constitutional rights.

"None of the executive orders the President put forth today would have prevented these horrific attacks from happening. Nor will these executive orders do anything to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms, but they will make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. The President should stop circumventing Congress and ignoring the will of the American people. As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I am completely opposed to the President's actions and I will do everything in my power to uphold our Second Amendment rights."

* Ga. Rep. Tom Graves — "Once again, the president is acting like a dictator, attempting to bypass Congress in order to implement rules and regulations that the American people don't want. This time, the president is exceeding his authority by issuing executive orders designed to restrict Second Amendment rights. The president's actions are an insult to law-abiding Americans and an assault on the Constitutional separation of powers. I will continue to fight the president's radical gun control agenda."

* State Sen. Bo Watson — "Do I believe that the president should be making these kinds of executive orders? The answer is no," Watson said. "And I think Tennessee has every right to challenge those executive orders States have a right to say no. But when all is said and done, we have to comply with the constitution of the United States."

WASHINGTON — Tears streaking his cheeks, President Barack Obama launched a final-year push Tuesday to tighten sales of firearms in the U.S., using his presidential powers in the absence of tougher gun restrictions that Congress has refused to pass.

The president struck a combative tone as he came out with plans for expanded background checks and other modest measures that have drawn consternation from gun rights groups, which Obama accused of making Congress their hostage. Palpable, too, was Obama's extreme frustration at having made such little progress on gun control since the killing of 20 first-graders in Connecticut confronted the nation more than three years ago.

"First-graders," Obama said woefully, resting his chin on his hand and wiping away tears as he recalled the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad."

Obama's 10-point plan to keep guns from those who shouldn't have them marked a concession by the president: He'll leave office without securing the new gun control laws he's repeatedly and desperately implored Congress to pass.

Although Obama, acting alone, can take action around the margins, only Congress can enact more sweeping changes that gun control advocates say are the only way to truly stem the frequency of mass shootings.

"It won't happen overnight," Obama said. "It won't happen during this Congress. It won't happen during my presidency." But, he added optimistically, "a lot of things don't happen overnight."

The National Rifle Association, the largest gun group, panned Obama's plan and said it was "ripe for abuse," although the group didn't specify what steps, if any, it will take to oppose or try to block it. Even Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat and gun-owner who co-wrote the bipartisan bill Obama supported in 2013, took issue with the president's move.

"Instead of taking unilateral executive action, the president should work with Congress and the American people, just as I've always done, to pass the proposals he announced today," Manchin said.

The centerpiece of Obama's plan is an attempt to narrow the loophole that exempts gun sales from background checks if the seller isn't a federal registered dealer. With new federal "guidance," the administration is clarifying that even those who sell just a few weapons at gun shows, flea markets or online can be deemed dealers and required to conduct checks on prospective buyers.

Whether that step can make a significant dent in unregulated gun sales is an open question, and one not easily answered.

Millions of guns are sold annually in informal settings outside of gun shops, including many through private sales arranged online. But the Obama administration acknowledged it couldn't quantify how many gun sales would be newly subjected to background checks, nor how many currently unregistered gun sellers would have to obtain a license.

Easily reversible by a future president, the government's guidance to gun sellers lacks the legal oomph of a new law, such as the one Obama and likeminded lawmakers tried but failed to pass in 2013. The Justice Department said online the guidance "has no regulatory effect and is not intended to create or confer any rights, privileges, or benefits in any matter, case, or proceeding."

What's more, none of the steps would have probably prevented any of the recent mass shootings that Obamainvoked in the East Room: Aurora, Oak Creek, Charleston, Newtown, to name some. But Obama defiantly rejected that critique, dismissing it as the tired trope of gun lobbyists who question "why bother trying?"

"I reject that thinking," Obama said. "We maybe can't save everybody, but we could save some."

Hoping to give the issue a human face, the White House assembled a cross-section of Americans affected by searing recent gun tragedies, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Mark Barden, whose son was shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School, introduced the president with a declaration that "we are better than this."

Obama readily conceded the executive steps will be challenged in court, a prediction quickly echoed by Republicans.

Chuck James, a former federal prosecutor who practices firearms law at the firm Williams Mullen, said opponents are likely to challenge Obama's authority to define what it means to be "engaged in the business" of selling guns beyond what's laid out in the law. The White House asserted confidence Obama was acting legally, and said Justice Department and White House lawyers had worked diligently to ensure the steps were watertight.

Other new steps include 230 new examiners the FBI will hire to process background checks, aiming to prevent delays that enabled the accused gunman in Charleston, South Carolina, to get a gun when the government took too long.

Obama is also asking the government to research smart gun technology to reduce accidental shootings and asking Congress for $500 million to improve mental health care. Other provisions aim to better track lost or stolen guns and prevent trusts or corporations from buying dangerous weapons without background checks.

Obama's announcement carved a predictably partisan fault line through the presidential campaign.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both competing for the nomination from Obama's party, pledged to build on his actions if elected. The Republican field formed a chorus of voices vowing to annul the whole package, with Marco Rubio claiming "Obama is obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment."

"Rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican. "His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty."

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