President Barack Obama is mounting a final-year push to make gun control part of his legacy despite Republican opposition and is expected to announce unilateral action early this week.
He will join Thursday for an exclusive one-hour live town hall on gun control at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, in hopes of mounting a final pitch to the public.
It’s an issue he has had zero success on so far in his presidency, despite his repeated, emotional appeals for change. Congress has remained a roadblock even in the face of widespread public support for Obama’s past calls for universal background checks or bolstered mental health support, with near uniform opposition from Republicans and a split on the issue among Democrats.
Obama will sit down with Cooper at 8 p.m. ET for the event, titled “Guns in America.” The event’s timing coincides with the fifth anniversary, next Friday, of the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, in a rampage that left six dead and 13 others wounded.
In addition to discussing gun issues with Cooper, Obama will also take questions from the audience on the issue.
Obama has repeatedly expressed his frustration with Congress’ inability to pass new gun laws, and has frequently spoken out about increased gun control in the wake of mass shootings.
Ahead of Thursday’s town hall, Obama plans to meet Monday with Attorney General Loretta Lynch to discuss options for tougher gun restrictions. He is also expected to announce in the coming days a new executive action with the goal of expanding background checks on gun sales.
Plans for the action are not yet complete, and those familiar with the process warn that unforeseen circumstances could delay an announcement. But gun control advocates are expecting the new actions to be revealed next week, ahead of Obama’s annual State of the Union address, set for January 12.
Gun control advocates and White House officials say the focus remains on the so-called “gun show loophole,” which allows certain sellers of guns — at gun shows and elsewhere — to avoid conducting background checks before making sales.
Congress would still need to act in order to make background checks fully universal. But advocates and administration lawyers have struck upon a provision in the law that could allow for Obama to expand the background check requirement to additional sellers.
A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said the White House hasn’t contacted them about potential new legislation yet.
“The administration has not communicated with us, and we have not been briefed. We will consider options once we have information, but what seems apparent is none of these ideas would have prevented the recent atrocities,” said AshLee Strong, the Ryan spokeswoman. “Our focus should be on the consistent causes of these acts — mental illnesses and terrorism — rather than infringing on law-abiding Americans’ constitutional rights.”
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SOURCE: CNN. Eugene Scott and Eric Bradner