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White House Takes Action On Gun Laws

Obama Closes Loopholes, Gun Rights Groups Cry Foul

Washington — The Obama administration said Thursday it has closed a loophole in the gun laws that allowed the acquisition of machine guns and other dangerous weapons and has banned U.S. military-style firearms that were sent overseas from returning to this country.

The announcement of the two new executive actions came as Vice President Joe Biden swore in the new head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the first Senate-confirmed director in the agency’s history. Biden pledged that the White House will not give up its effort for more gun control despite congressional inaction after the shooting rampage at a Connecticut elementary school late last year.

“The president and I remain committed to getting these things done,” Biden said at the White House ceremony installing B. Todd Jones as the ATF’s first permanent director in seven years. “If Congress won’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress. It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done.”

In the past, individuals seeking to avoid personal background checks for machine guns and short-barreled shotguns have claimed they were “trusts or corporations.” But a new ATF regulation will close that loophole and require them to pass background checks. Last year, the ATF said, it received more than 39,000 requests for transfers of these firearms to trusts and corporations in ruses to skirt the checks.

“It’s a very artful dodge,” Biden said.

The other executive action was aimed at keeping U.S. military weapons sold to foreign governments from being re-imported to individuals back in this country. Since 2005, the U.S. government has authorized requests to re-import more than 250,000 of these firearms. Under the new rule, only firearms re-imported for museums and other such exceptions would be allowed.

“We’re ending the practice,” said the vice president, who after the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was tasked with overseeing an effort to come up with gun control and mental health measures. “The new policy is going to help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.”

The executive actions drew quick criticism from gun rights’ organizations, which said the requirements will not lower gun violence but instead only continue the president’s fight against legitimate gun enthusiasts. “Evidently he’s been elected king, and not president,” Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, said. “He’s made it fairly clear that he doesn’t like the Second Amendment.”

Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said, “This is an outrage. The only people being hurt are law-abiding citizens.” He added that legislation is pending in Washington to prevent these new changes.

However, others welcomed the executive orders.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said 90 percent of the American public demand stronger background checks, and that “today the Obama administration locked one backdoor used to get around” those firearm inspections.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York said in a joint statement they hoped the executive actions will spur Congress to adopt even more gun control measures. “Everyday, 33 people are murdered with guns in our country,” they said. “It’s time for Congress to stop dragging its feet.”