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(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); Obama’s Lofty Plans on Gun Violence Amount to Little Action - Algeria latest news

WASHINGTON — The centerpiece of a plan for stemming gun violence that President Obama announced to great fanfare last month largely amounts to this: an updated web page and 10,000 pamphlets that federal agents plan to give out at gun shows.

In a tearful display of anger and sadness in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama ordered a series of steps intended to limit gun violence and vowed to clamp down on what he called widespread evasion of a federal law requiring gun dealers to obtain licenses.

But few concrete actions have been put in motion by law enforcement agencies to aggressively carry out the gun dealer initiative, despite the lofty expectations that Mr. Obama and top aides set.

Obama administration officials said they have no specific plans to boost investigations, arrests or prosecutions of gun sellers who do not comply with the law. No task forces have been assembled. No agents or prosecutors have been specifically reassigned to such cases. And no funding has been reallocated to accelerate gun sale- investigations in Washington or at the offices of the 93 United States attorneys.

The absence of aggressive enforcement is a reminder of the practical limits of Mr. Obama’s executive authority, even as he repeatedly asserts the power of the Oval Office to get things done in the face of inaction by a Republican Congress.

Even the National Rifle Association, which furiously fights anything it perceives as a threat to gun rights, has not sued to block Mr. Obama’s actions, and pro-gun groups profess little reason for concern. “Nothing from what we can see has changed,” said Mike Bazinet, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry group.

Administration officials say that with Congress unwilling to take any legislative action, the White House’s plan goes as far as Mr. Obama can go to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally ill people.

“The actions the president announced last month represent the maximum the administration can do under the current law,” said Eric Schultz, the deputy White House press secretary, “namely increasing mental health treatment and reporting, improving public safety, managing the future of gun safety technology, and of course, enhancing the background check system.”

For Mr. Obama, the highly stage-managed announcement of new gun measures gave him the chance to demonstrate what he called the “fierce urgency” to respond to mass shootings. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch told reporters on the day Mr. Obama announced the plan that the government was “ramping up our enforcement efforts, particularly online” and “will be looking” for unlicensed gun dealers.

But turning passionate political promises into real action is often difficult in the final year of a presidency, especially in the face of a sluggish bureaucracy and a determined, partisan opposition in Congress. The president’s attempts to sidestep lawmakers on immigration have been tied in courts for more than a year, and he faces fights on executive orders to expand gay rights, establish a minimum wage for federal contractors and combat climate change.

The most visible sign so far of the president’s initiative to license more gun dealers is the printing of 10,000 pamphlets clarifying what qualifies a gun seller as a dealer. Officials plan to hand out the pamphlets at gun shows, weekend flea markets and elsewhere. They say they hope the “education campaign,” as it is called, will prompt more gun sellers to register as dealers, who then must conduct background checks. The same information has been updated on the website of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The new guidance says there is no “bright line” rule for determining whether someone should register as a dealer, but that a number of factors — such as selling even a small number of new firearms in their original packaging, making a profit, and selling regularly at gun shows or online — could qualify.

Sally Quillian Yates, the deputy attorney general, said the A.T.F.’s new guidance will put people who sell guns regularly “on notice” that they must register as dealers and conduct background checks. She said it should also eventually lead to more successful prosecutions of unregistered gun dealers who are flouting the law.

But gun control advocates who pushed Mr. Obama to take aggressive action say they want to see more than just notification. Jonas Oransky, the chief counsel at Everytown for Gun Safety, said he expects arrests and prosecutions at gun shows and for online gun dealers.

“A.T.F. should make that happen and should not assume it’s happening without extra energy behind it by them,” Mr. Oransky said. He said gun control advocates will demand action if law enforcement agencies do not follow through, but, he added, “we’re giving them some time to figure out how best to do this.”

Some experts are skeptical that the president’s actions will have much effect, even if they are carried out fully.

“This is a very modest plan,” said Joe Vince, a former administrator at the A.T.F. who now teaches criminal justice. “I don’t think the president had much more authority than to do what he did.”

White House officials said it was too early to judge the effect of the president’s gun measures. And they said the effort to register more gun dealers was just one piece of the larger set of gun measures the president unveiled at the White House last month. Other elements of the gun initiative intend to tighten rules on gun purchases by corporations and more quickly identify lost or stolen guns.

The president also sought to improve the F.B.I.’s ability to identify prohibited gun buyers by hiring more background check examiners and by collecting more criminal and mental health information from states.

But a number of the elements that Mr. Obama took credit for last month were already underway, for months or sometimes years — long before he directed the administration to develop new gun measures in the wake of recent mass shootings in California and Oregon last fall.

The F.B.I., for example, has already received funding from Congress in the current budget for an additional 230 examiners in the next two years to handle the growing load of background check requests.

Politically, the president is wary of creating any appearance in the public eye that he is sending in armies of federal agents to take away people’s guns. He angrily denounced that idea as “a false notion” and “a conspiracy” during a live, town-hall-style meeting on guns televised on CNN just days after announcing his executive actions last month.

“Our No. 1 goal here is not to slap the cuffs on people for not being registered,” Ms. Yates, the deputy attorney general, said in an interview. She said that “we believe there are a lot of folks out there who want to comply with the law.”

Mr. Obama’s lawyers have cautioned against seeming to create new gun laws by fiat. The most the president can do, they have said, is to direct better enforcement of the laws that already exist.

In practice, the bulk of the new responsibilities outlined by Mr. Obama in his plan will fall to the A.T.F., an agency that has suffered from chronic underfunding and understaffing, years of scandals, and long-held distrust from Republicans and gun rights groups. Mr. Obama plans to request tens of millions of dollars from Congress for additional A.T.F. agents, but Republicans are hesitant to approve it.

The A.T.F. has been without a confirmed director since April; the White House has blamed a backlog of confirmations in the Republican-controlled Senate. Michael Bouchard, a former assistant director at the A.T.F., faulted Mr. Obama for not nominating anyone to the job as part of his plan.

“How could you say that all this stuff about guns is so important, but you don’t think it’s important enough to name a nominee to run the agency?” Mr. Bouchard said in an interview. “This would have been a great time for it.”

A.T.F. officials said that the agency has not named anyone internally to oversee the president’s plan, nor has it set up any new committees to run it. Brian Garner, a special agent and spokesman with the agency, said that “we’ve not at any point said we’re going to do any big roll out. Right now we’re going to work the cases with the resources we have and do the best job we can.”

In a statement, Thomas Brandon, the agency’s deputy director, said that the “A.T.F. remains dedicated to smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws.”

“Our efforts are focused not on law-abiding gun owners, but on violent offenders and the illegal firearms traffickers who supply their guns,” he added.

Supporters of Mr. Obama’s plan said they had been assured that it will be enforced aggressively.

“It was significant, it was bold,” Maura Healey, the Massachusetts state attorney general, said in an interview, adding that “it takes time for the directive to be implemented.”

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