Obama weighs White House moves on gun control

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Obama Pledges to Keep Talking About Gun Control

As President Obama heads to Roseburg, Oregon for closed-door visits with families of the victims of last week's shootings at Umpqua Community College, the White House is considering wading once more into the politically-fraught issue of gun control.

The administration is reconsidering a major gun control proposal that would establish new guidelines for who is legally defined as a licensed gun dealer and therefore required to conduct background checks on potential buyers, administration officials tell NBC News. The proposal would define anyone that sells more a certain number of guns each year "in the business" of selling guns and therefore subject to laws for gun dealers.

According to sources, the administration has considered 50 or 100 guns a year as the threshold to trigger these requirements, although they have not formally settled on a number.

See photos from the aftermath of the recent Oregon shooting:

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Obama weighs White House moves on gun control
People embrace during a prayer vigil Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Winston, Ore. The vigil was held in honor of the victims of the fatal shooting at Umpqua Community College on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Locher)
People walk on a path at Umpqua Community College, Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. The campus reopened on a limited basis for faculty and students for the first time since armed suspect Chris Harper-Mercer killed multiple people and wounded several others on Thursday before taking his own life at Snyder Hall. (AP Photo/John Locher)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: A sign at the edge of campus welcomes students and staff back to Umpqua Community College on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched around large areas of the school, the campus was open to staff and students today for the first time since last Thursday when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. Classes are not scheduled to resume until next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Faculty members embrace as they are allowed to return to Umpqua Community College Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. The campus reopened to faculty for the first time since Oct. 1, when armed suspect Chris Harper-Mercer killed multiple people and wounded several others before taking his own life at Snyder Hall. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Ethan Hurley, 7, top right, prays with a church group at a makeshift memorial near Snyder Hall at Umpqua Community College, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed suspect Chris Harper-Mercer on Thursday killed multiple people and wounded several others before taking his own life at Snyder Hall. (AP Photo/John Locher)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 04: Families Roseburg's Green Community Church and Lutheran Church Charities pause to pray at a memorial in front of Snyder Hall on the campus of Umpqua Community College on October 4, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Chris Harper Mercer, 26, went on a shooting rampage October 1 at the campus, killing nine people and wounding another nine before killing himself, according to published reports. Lacey says she believes she survived the shooting by playing dead next to the bleeding body of fellow student Treven Anspach, who died in the shooting. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WINSTON, OR - OCTOBER 03: Residents of Douglas County attend a prayer service and candlelight vigil at River Bend Park to remember the victims of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in nearby Roseburg on October 3, 2015 in Winston, Oregon. On Thursday 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage at the college killing nine people and wounding another nine before killing himself. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Umpqua Community College shooting survivor Mathew Downing (C) is greeted as he arrives on campus near Snyder Hall on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Downing was reported to have been given a package by gunman Chris Harper-Mercer and told he was the 'lucky one' who would survive to deliver the package to authorities. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched around large areas of the school, the campus was open to staff and students today for the first time since last Thursday when 26-year-old Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage in Snyder Hall killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. Classes are not scheduled to resume until next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Ashley Katter, left, embraces Haley Lamphere while holding Katter's niece Ruby Abrahamson during a prayer vigil Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Winston, Ore. The vigil was held in honor of the victims of the fatal shooting at Umpqua Community College on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Locher)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: People hold a prayer circle outside Snyder Hall on the campus of Umpqua Community College on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched around large areas of the school, the campus was open to staff and students today for the first time since last Thursday when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage in Snyder Hall killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. Classes are not scheduled to resume until next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Students Sharon Kirkham (L) and Kristapher Yates visit a memorial dedicated to the slain students on the campus of Umpqua Community College on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched around large areas of the school, the campus was open to staff and students today for the first time since last Thursday when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. Classes are not scheduled to resume until next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Police stand guard outside Snyder Hall on the campus of Umpqua Community College on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched around large areas of the school, the campus was open to staff and students today for the first time since last Thursday when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage in Snyder Hall killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. Classes are not scheduled to resume until next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Kyle Workman, second from right, holds his daughter Samantha Workman while sitting beside his wife Christina Workman who is holding their daughter Pepper Workman during a prayer vigil Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Winston, Ore. The vigil was held in honor of the victims of the fatal shooting at Umpqua Community College on Thursday. (AP Photo/John Locher)
WINSTON, ORE. -- SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2015: Led by Toni New, a Chaplain with the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, not pictured, friends of the late Rebecka Ann Carnes, an Umpqua Community College mass shootings victim, embrace one another in prayer during a memorial service called 'Prayers for Roseburg,' at Riverbend Park in Winston, Ore., on Oct. 3, 2015. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: A faculty member walks past a privacy fence that surrounds Snyder Hall on the campus of Umpqua Community College as it reopens on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched aroud large areas of the school, the campus was opened to staff and faculty today for the first time since October 1, when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage at Snyder, killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. The campus is scheduled to open to students in the afternoon and classes are scheduled to resume next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Police officers remove a barricade on the campus of Umpqua Community College as it reopens on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. The campus was opened to staff and faculty today for the first time since October 1, when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. The campus is scheduled to open to students in the afternoon and classes are scheduled to resume next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Staff members embrace as they arrive on the campus of Umpqua Community College as it reopens on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched aroud large areas of the school, the campus was opened to staff and faculty today for the first time since October 1, when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. The campus is scheduled to open to students in the afternoon and classes are scheduled to resume next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: A woman navigates crime scene tape as she holds flowers on the campus of Umpqua Community College as it reopens on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched aroud large areas of the school, the campus was opened to staff and faculty today for the first time since October 1, when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. The campus is scheduled to open to students in the afternoon and classes are scheduled to resume next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Staff members embrace as they arrive on the campus of Umpqua Community College as it reopens on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Despite crime scene tape still being stretched aroud large areas of the school, the campus was opened to staff and faculty today for the first time since October 1, when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. The campus is scheduled to open to students in the afternoon and classes are scheduled to resume next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Dr. Christine Seals speaks during a news conference at Umpqua Community College Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. The campus reopened on a limited basis for faculty and students for the first time since armed suspect Chris Harper-Mercer killed multiple people and wounded several others on Thursday before taking his own life at Snyder Hall. (AP Photo/John Locher)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 05: Police officers remove crime scene tape on the campus of Umpqua Community College as it reopens on October 5, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. The campus was opened to staff and faculty today for the first time since October 1, when 26-year-old Chris Harper-Mercer went on a shooting rampage killing nine people and wounding another nine before he was killed. The campus is scheduled to open to students in the afternoon and classes are scheduled to resume next week. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Authorities block a road leading to the Umpqua Community College Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed with multiple guns, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, walked in a classroom at the community college, Thursday, and opened fire, killing several and wounding several others. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Douglas County Deputy Sheriff Greg Kennerly, left, and Oregon State Trooper Tom Willis, stand guard outside the apartment building, Friday Oct. 2 2015, where alleged Umpqua Community College gunman Chris Harper Mercer lived, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed with multiple guns, Harper, 26, walked in a writing class at the community college, Thursday, and opened fire, killing several and wounding several others. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Law enforcement officers investigate a home in Roseburg, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. A gunman opened fire inside a classroom at Umpqua Community College before dying in a shootout with police. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
A building on the Umpqua Community College campus is seen on a hill as birds fly over the North Umpqua River Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed with multiple guns, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, walked in a classroom at the community college, Thursday, and opened fire, killing several and wounding several others. (AP Photo/John Locher)
A sign hangs on a fence near the road leading to the Umpqua Community College campus Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed with multiple guns, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, walked into a classroom at the community college, Thursday, and opened fire, killing multiple people and wounding several others. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Authorities block a road leading to the Umpqua Community College Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Roseburg, Ore. Armed with multiple guns, Chris Harper Mercer, 26, walked in a classroom at the community college, Thursday, and opened fire, killing several and wounding several others. (AP Photo/John Locher)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 02: Media vehicles line the road near Umpqua Community College on October 2, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Yesterday 10 people were killed and another seven were wounded on the campus when 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 02: Emergency workers block access to Umpqua Community College on October 2, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Yesterday 10 people were killed and another seven were wounded on the campus when 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 02: Crime scene tape limits access to Umpqua Community College on October 2, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Yesterday 10 people were killed and seven were wounded on the campus when 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
TARZANA, CA OCTOBER 2: LAPD outside the home of Ian Harper Friday morning October 2, 2015 in Tarzana. Harper is the father of Oregon shooting suspect, Chris Harper Mercer. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
TARZANA, CA OCTOBER 2: Media set up outside the home of Ian Harper Friday morning October 2, 2015 in Tarzana. Harper is the father of Oregon shooting suspect, Chris Harper Mercer. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
ROSEBURG, OR - OCTOBER 02: A media vehicle sits under a sign in a hotel parking lot which advertises Umpqua Community College on October 2, 2015 in Roseburg, Oregon. Yesterday 10 people were killed and another seven were wounded on the campus when 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer went on a shooting rampage. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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"This is a super-complicated policy," said one administration official who was familiar with the idea.

In the wake of the deadly Oregon shooting in which nine people were killed and nine others were injured, the president pledged to have staff "scrub" existing gun laws in search of ways to push for reform. The president has often expressed frustration that political opposition has gotten in the way of gun control provisions.

Related: Obama Urges Public to Become 'Single Issue' Voters on Gun Control Reform

Administration officials considered this executive order in 2013, after a bill requiring background checks for almost all gun sales failed to pass in the Senate. They ultimately opted against it, wary of both the complexity of defining who is a gun dealer and potential lawsuits arguing the executive order was illegal.

But they are reconsidering issuing such an order as part of a broader review of gun policy in the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

The idea drew renewed attention when Hillary Clinton, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, said she would take such an executive action if elected. Everytown for Gun Safety, the Michael Bloomberg-funded gun control group, also called for Obama to adopt this policy.

Related: 'We Become Numb': Frustrated Obama Says American Gun Culture 'Doesn't Make Sense'

"These sellers are selling hundreds of thousands of guns without background checks," said Adam Skaggs, senior counsel for Everytown.

The National Rifle Association blasted this idea.

There is little national data on gun purchases, so it's not clear how many gun sales this would affect.

But gun control advocates say they are worried a growing number of weapons are sold outside the background check process, either online or at gun shows.

Some advocates of this executive order say it would actually expand the number of background checks more than the unsuccessful 2013 bill, which had a number of exemptions.

Obama aides have not given a timetable on when or if the president will determine if he wants to adopt this proposal. Obama has already used his executive authority repeatedly over the last two years to implement his policies, particularly on immigration.

However, Obama's executive order to legalize millions of undocumented immigrants remains in a protracted court battle, and administration officials say this gun provision, if implemented, would likely be challenged by conservatives in courts.

But gun control advocates say Obama long ago should have issued the executive order and that he has bowed to political, not legal, considerations in not taking action. According to sources, some senior officials at both the White House and Department of Justice, including then-Attorney General Eric Holder, had argued the executive action was legal and proper when it was being considered.

Many of the key Senate races in 2014 were in pro-gun states like Alaska and Arkansas.

"I think there was a lot of pressure on the White House to let this go for a while," said one gun control advocate, who is working with Obama administration officials on gun policy and did not want to criticize them publicly.

"Now, in his last 16 months, he can do this," he added.

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