As President Obama visited the community rocked by last week's Oregon college shooting Friday, the president was reportedly considering executive action on gun background checks -- after he called for Americans to turn gun control into a political issue in the wake of the shooting.
Obama met Friday with survivors and families of those killed in the attack at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. The gunman killed nine before killing himself.
"I've got some very strong feelings about this, because when you talk to these families, you are reminded that this could be happening to your child, or your mom, or your dad, or your relative, or your friend," Obama said at the end of his visit.
"And so, we're going to have to come together as a country to see how we can prevent these issues from taking place," he said.
The Washington Post reported that the White House is considering executive action that would compel background checks for "individuals who buy from dealers who sell a significant number of guns each year." Dealers who exceed a certain number of sales each year would be required to obtain a license and perform background checks, the Post reported.
Current law says only those “engaged in the business” of selling guns need to obtain a license and perform a background check. Exempted are those who make occasional sales, or who buy or sell guns as part of a personal collection or for a hobby.
Obama himself had not ruled out the possibility of acting unilaterally on the issue, saying in his news conference after the shooting that he had asked his team to see what he could do on his own to address gun violence.
“In terms of what I can do, I've asked my team, as I have in the past, to scrub what kinds of authorities do we have to enforce the laws that we have in place more effectively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Are there additional actions that we can take that might prevent even a handful of these tragic deaths from taking place?” Obama said at the Oct. 1 news conference.
The proposal to expand background checks originally was part of a package of considerations mulled after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., but was rejected after federal lawyers expressed concern that setting a numerical threshold could be legally challenged, and ATF officials voiced objections that it would be hard to enforce, the Post reported.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to rule out executive action from the Oval Office on the issue – saying it was an “ongoing” effort on the part of the president’s team.
“And the fact is there are a lot of things that can be done that don't undermine the basic constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans,” Earnest said.
Obama risks being outflanked on the issue by former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton who this week announced a number of gun control proposals, including overturning a law that prevents families of shooting victims from suing gun makers and using executive action to change the definition of who qualifies as a firearms dealer.
Obama’s attempts to pass gun control measures through Congress previously have been unsuccessful, and in 2013 he announced 23 executive actions in the wake of the Newtown massacre. In his remarks after the Roseburg shooting, he called on the U.S. to turn gun control into a political issue.
“And, of course, what’s also routine is that somebody, somewhere, will comment and say, Obama politicized this issue. Well, this is something we should politicize. It is relevant to our common life together, to the body politic,” Obama said.
However, any gun proposals would likely see unified opposition among Republicans in Congress and GOP 2016 hopefuls. Republicans argue that mental health, not guns, are to blame for mass shootings and that White House proposals on the issue would violate the Second Amendment and wouldn’t do much, if anything, to prevent mass shootings.
"Talk of gun control makes the liberals feel warm and fuzzy. However, the cold reality is that when you disarm the good guys you put them at the mercy of the bad guys. That’s what gun control does," Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Friday in an opinion piece for FoxNews.com.
The president may face opposition to his gun control proposals even in the town of Roseburg when he visits Friday, although the White House has said that the visit will be about comforting the victims, not about proposing new gun laws.
Staunchly conservative Douglas County is filled with gun owners who use their firearms for hunting, target shooting and self-protection. A commonly held opinion in the area is that the solution to mass killings is more people carrying guns, not fewer.
"The fact that the college didn't permit guards to carry guns, there was no one there to stop this man," Craig Schlesinger, pastor at the Garden Valley Church, told The Associated Press.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.