President Obama vowed Monday to press ahead with new executive actions on gun control after meeting with top law enforcement officials, claiming he has the “legal authority” to act – and defying congressional critics who say he’s pursuing a “dangerous” overreach.
The president, without giving any specifics, said he’ll be “rolling out these initiatives” over the next several days. He spoke after meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and other top officials to review their proposals and finalize his plans.
Obama said their recommendations are “well within my legal authority” and would be supported by “the overwhelming majority of the American people including gun owners.”
“The recommendations that are being made by my team here are ones that are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment,” Obama said, claiming they could “potentially save lives.”
The White House said that Obama will deliver remarks from the East Room at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday announcing a series of executive actions on gun control.
The revived push to tighten America’s gun laws via executive action, however, has resulted in a backlash on Capitol Hill and the campaign trail.
Republicans made clear they would fight the administration and accused the president of overstepping.
"While we don’t yet know the details of the plan, the president is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. “This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it.”
Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who chairs a key appropriations panel, warned Lynch on Monday that he would “use every tool at my disposal to immediately restrict” DOJ funding if the department proceeds with “new restrictions on our Constitutional rights.”
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump vowed to reverse any such actions if he’s elected.
"We're not changing the Second Amendment," Trump said Saturday at a campaign rally in Biloxi, Miss. "I will veto that. I will un-sign that so fast."
While Obama did not detail the proposals, a priority is an effort to expand background checks on gun sales by forcing more sellers to register as federally licensed gun dealers. The changes would be aimed at some unregistered sellers who skirt the background check laws by selling at gun shows, online or informal settings. Other moves being considered include improving reporting of lost and stolen weapons and beefing up inspections of licensed dealers, according to a person familiar with the plans.
The package includes measures this White House has long considered but not completed, mindful of the legal fight sure to follow as well as the potential for political backlash for some fellow Democrats.
While Obama took heat from Republicans, supporters of stronger action on gun control applauded the president’s new push.
"We definitely think there are things he can do," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates for expanding background checks. Gross says his recent conversations with White House aides have left him hopeful.
"It's very clear that the White House is feeling emboldened," he said.
Obama announced the meeting with Lynch in his weekly address from his Hawaii holiday vacation. On Thursday, he'll take his argument to prime time, participating in a town hall discussion of gun violence on CNN. He's slated to make his case for changes in his State of the Union address on Jan. 12.
The high-profile rollout reflects a White House continuing to look for ways to wrap up unfinished business, despite an uncooperative Congress.
After all but ignoring the issue in his first term, Obama changed course after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012. Nevertheless, the president failed to push a package of gun measures through Congress, including one expanding background checks.
At the same time, Obama took nearly two dozen executive actions to tighten gun laws, but left a major expansion of background checks out of the mix.
But after the shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon in October, Obama ordered his staff to redouble the effort to look for ways to work around Congress.
Under current law, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to seek background checks on potential firearm purchasers. But advocacy groups say many sellers are currently exempt from having to register, increasing the chance of sales to customers prohibited by law from purchasing a gun.
The administration is expected to reclassify some of those dealers using a mix of criteria, such as the number and frequency of guns sold, whether sellers profit off sales, whether they advertise, rent space or tables at gun shows and pay taxes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.