The White House is considering whether President Obama can take executive action to enforce stronger gun control measures, White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said on Monday.
“The president has frequently pushed his team to consider a range of executive actions that could more effectively keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have access to them,” Earnest said Monday. “That’s something that is ongoing here.”
Earnest was responding to questions from reporters following Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s announcement that she would consider executive action to expand background checks on gun buyers by closing the so-called gun show loophole.
Clinton’s move marks the second time she has said she will consider going farther than the Obama administration by taking unilateral action on hot-button issues. She has already said that she would expand on Obama’s unilteral actions granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens if Congress fails to pass immigration reform.
Clinton’s announcement on the gun issue puts Obama in a bind. Last week, following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Obama said that he will continue to politicize the issue of gun violence in order to force Congress to enact gun control measures.
But Obama’s critics have wondered why he does not exert executive authority if he believes so strongly in the cause.
Earnest declined to expand on White House deliberations on possible executive action.
“I don’t have anything to announce at this point, but we certanly welcome the kind of debate that Secretary Clinton is continuing,” he said.
Another reporter followed up, asserting that if executive action on guns was a possibility, “it would be done by now.”
“I don’t have a lot of details to provide you in terms of the work that’s being done by the President’s team to do this scrub of the available authorities that the president may have to address gun violence,” Earnest said. “But that is ongoing work and if there are any conclusions that are arrived at that the President agrees with then we will announce it publicly.”
Asked if there were any technical impediments to implementing executive action, Earnest said that “it’s hard to answer this question while also protecting their ability to do their work.”
Asked if the White House was having trouble figuring out how to tackle the issue, Earnest said “I can tell you, they’re not stumped.”
“They are continuing to review the law that’s on the books and continuing to consult with legal authorities but also with others who may have ideas about what steps could be taken to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” Earnest said.