President Barack Obama took two executive actions on gun control on Aug. 29, four months after the Senate failed to restrict gun sales in response to a December 2012 massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Vice President Joe Biden announced Obama’s actions as he swore in B. Todd Jones as the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in seven years, the White House announced.
“ATF is the key agency enforcing our gun laws, and they need a permanent director in order to do that and to do the job to the best of their ability,” Biden said.
The first executive order requires buyers of machine guns and certain short-barreled shotguns to pass a fingerprint-based background check and register the weapons, according to the White House. Felons and others not allowed to have guns could previously evade background checks by registering the guns to a trust or a corporation.
“It’s a very artful dodge to get around people who are not capable, constitutionally or legally, of owning a weapon,” Biden said.
The ATF also issued a new regulation requiring people associated with such a corporation to pass a background check.
The second executive order prohibits the reimport of military-grade surplus weapons, which are sold abroad, except for display in museums, the administration announced.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) dismissed the administration’s moves as misdirected, arguing that they wouldn’t keep criminals from getting weapons.
“The Obama administration has once again completely missed the mark when it comes to stopping violent crime,” Andrew Arulanandam, NRA spokesman, said. “This administration should get serious about prosecuting violent criminals who misuse guns and stop focusing its efforts on law-abiding gun owners.”
Still out of reach for Obama were the steps that gun control advocates and the administration’s own review say could most effectively combat gun violence in the United States, like an assault weapons ban and fewer exceptions for background checks for individual sales. Only Congress can act on those fronts.
There is scant evidence that support for gun control legislation has grown substantially since April, when efforts died in the Senate amid staunch opposition from the NRA and most Republican senators.
“Sooner or later, we are going to get this right,” Obama said that day in the White House Rose Garden, with the families of Newtown victims and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, herself a victim of a gunman, at his side. “The memories of these children demand it, and so do the American people.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.