Gun control activists rally in front of the White House in Washington on Jan. 4, 2016. (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
Republican presidential candidates wasted no time in criticizing President Obama’s announcement that he plans to take executive action to tighten gun control.
Frustrated by congressional inaction, the commander in chief is expected to announce unilateral action this week to curb gun violence. He was slated to hammer out the details with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday, and take part in a town hall meeting on the topic at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., on Thursday.
Obama was back in the conservative crosshairs after revealing in his weekly radio address Friday that he had instructed his team to look into his options for trying to curb gun violence months ago.
Before any details have been unveiled, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and GOP presidential contenders are already taking aim at Obama’s attempts to curb gun violence in ways that do not require congressional approval.
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump accused Obama of trampling on the Constitution, and vowed to reverse any actions that would, from his perspective, undermine the citizenry’s right to bear arms.
“So he’s going to sign another executive order having to do with the Second Amendment, having to do with guns. I will veto that. I will unsign that so fast — so fast,” the real estate mogul said to applause at a rally in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Saturday.
Trump doubled down on his defense of the Second Amendment the following day during an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He said there are plenty of rules and regulations already in place, but “the bad guys are always going to get the guns.”
President Obama waves as he walks with his daughter Malia Obama across the South Lawn on their return to the White House in Washington on Jan. 3, 2016, after their family vacation in Hawaii. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
In general, Trump said, he does not like executive orders, the United States was not founded on them and “nobody really knew” that the country even had “such a thing.”
“I would be rescinding a lot of executive orders that he’s done,” he said. “The one good thing about executive orders: the new president, if he comes in – boom – first day, first hour, first minute. You can rescind them.”
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, another political outside turned presidential hopeful, said she would not support an executive order to expand background checks for high-volume gun dealers.
“President Obama has been lawless in his use of executive orders, whether those executive orders are around immigration or whether those executive orders are around gun control,” Fiorina said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “It is delusional, dangerous, not to mention unconstitutional for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to continue to talk about climate change and gun control in the wake of a Paris terrorist attack [and] a San Bernardino terrorist attack instead of talking about how they plan to defeat ISIS.”
According to Fiorina, the president should enforce the gun laws that we already have, and prosecute known criminals who are purchasing firearms.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on “Fox News Sunday” that Obama should go to Congress if he wants to make changes to the gun laws.
“This president is a petulant child,” he said. “Whenever he can’t get what he wants — because quite frankly, the American people have rejected his agenda … this president wants to act like he’s a king, like he’s a dictator.”
Christie said that Obama’s push for gun control will result in “another illegal executive action” that will be rejected by the courts.
“When I become president,” he added, “[Obama’s expected restrictions] will be stricken from executive action by executive action I’ll take.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a campaign town hall meeting in Merrimack, New Hampshire, on Jan. 3, 2016. (Photo: Katherine Taylor/Reuters)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said it is no surprise that the American people do not believe the government is working for their best interests when the president “recklessly uses executive authority” that is not afforded by the Constitution.
“His first impulse always is to take rights away from law-abiding citizens, and it’s wrong,” Bush said on “Fox News Sunday.” “And to use executive powers he does not have is a pattern that is quite dangerous.”
A better approach, Bush said, would be to protect the Second Amendment while being tough on gun crime. He also touted his “NRA Statesman of the Year” award based on his pro-gun record as governor. The Bush campaign later admitted that he was “mistaken” and never received such an award.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is not in the 2016 race for the White House, responded to Obama’s announcement with an image of the Come and Take It flag — a symbol of Texan defiance and independence.
Beginning his final year as president, Obama rattled off a list of issues he feels the United States has made considerable progress on during his time in the Oval Office: expanding health care coverage, increasing employment, decreasing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, legalizing same-sex marriage and leading the international fight against climate change.
During a time of routine mass shootings, however, Obama feels that fighting against the epidemic of gun violence remains a piece of unfinished business for the nation. He cited a statistic that 90 percent of the American people would support expanding background checks for virtually everyone who buys a gun.
“We know we can’t stop every act of violence,” Obama said, “but what if we tried to stop even one? What if Congress did something — anything — to protect our kids from gun violence?”