05 January, 2016
President Barack Obama says there should be a midpoint where gun-control and gun-rights supporters can meet to stop gun violence in the U.S.
Nearly 500 people were killed in mass shootings in the United States during 2015, according to Gun Violence Archive. More than 30,000 Americans die each year from gun deaths, two-thirds of them younger than 18, the Department of Justice reports.
Obama wiped away tears as he listed the places where mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. since 2012.
"Too many," he said, shaking his head.
Family members of victims of gun violence stood around him in the formal East Room of the White House. Some echoed his words. Some cried.
One parent who lost a child at the mass shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut in 2012, thanked Obama for his acts against gun violence. Twenty children died that day, most of them 6-year-olds.
"First graders," Obama said. "First-graders..."
"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," he said. "By the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day."
Obama said he wants to make guns safer. If you have a cell phone, you cannot unlock it without a code or fingerprint: Why can't the same technology be used for guns? he asked.
Obama said he wants to require more background checks for buying and selling guns and weapons. For example, many gun sales on the Internet and at gun shows do not require background checks. He said he wants more sellers to be licensed and more buyers to have background checks.
A background check looks into a buyer's past for arrests or mental health issues.
He said he wants agents to conduct background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He will have to get funding from Congress.
Obama said he acted because Congress has refused to reduce gun violence. He is not trying to take away the right of most Americans to have guns, the president said.
"No matter how many times people try to twist my words around, I taught Constitutional law. I know a little about this. I get it," Obama said.
Republican critics said Obama's new order oversteps his authority.
"From Day One, the president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding," said House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin.
"Pretty soon you won't be able to get guns," said Donald Trump during an interview on CNN Monday. Trump, a billionaire businessman, is the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump told CNN he would reverse any presidential order on guns if he is elected president.
Leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised the president's new gun control effort. She said more action is needed to reduce gun violence.
If elected, Clinton promised to "take on the gun lobby and to work with responsible gun owners" to reform gun laws.
The worst mass shootings last year occurred at an African-American church in South Carolina, a family planning clinic in Colorado, a holiday party in California, and a college in Oregon.
Obama admitted his new orders on gun violence will not stop all violent crimes. But he said they are within his authority as president.
Obama said Monday: "It will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they've suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people."
I'm Mario Ritter.
Mary Alice Salinas reported on this story for VOANews. Bruce Alpert adapted this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
midpoint – n. middle ground, a compromise
wipe – v. to clean or dry with your hand or a towel
echo – v. repeat the same words
fingerprint – n. the mark that is made by pressing the tip of a finger on a surface
background – adj. information about someone's life, such as criminal activity
ownership – n. the state or fact of owning something
reverse – v. to change something to an opposite state or condition