Seeking momentum on gun control, Obama to take case to US public

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Vacation Over, Obama Eyes Gun Violence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama will take his case for new gun control measures directly to the American people this week while proposing new executive actions in a final big effort to reduce gun violence during his last year in office.

Obama meets with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to discuss his administration's options for tightening gun rules without going through the Republican-controlled Congress, which does not support the wide-ranging legislative changes that the Democratic president prefers.

Although the White House has not spelled out his plans specifically, they are expected to include measures that would require more gun sellers to become licensed dealers and conduct background checks on buyers.

Guns are a potent issue in U.S. politics. The right to bear arms is protected by the U.S. Constitution, and the National Rifle Association, the top U.S. gun rights group, is feared and respected in Washington for its ability to mobilize gun owners. Congress has not approved major gun-control legislation since the 1990s.

See photos of Obama addressing the nation about shootings & gun control during his tenure:

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Obama addressing the nation on U.S. shootings & gun control during his presidency
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Seeking momentum on gun control, Obama to take case to US public
An emotional President Barack Obama, joined by Vice President Joe Biden, pauses as he recalled the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, while speaking in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama gets emotional as he delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on January 5, 2016 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON / AFP / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on executive actions to reduce gun violence on January 5, 2016 at the White House in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON / AFP / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama makes a statement on Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama makes a statement on Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernandino, Calif., Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, about the shooting at the community college in Oregon. The shooting happened at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., about 180 miles south of Portland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, about the shooting at the community college in Oregon. The shooting happened at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., about 180 miles south of Portland. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama, left, sits with FBI Director James Comey, right, before speaking to members of the media in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 16, 2015, on the shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn. A gunman unleashed a barrage of fire at a recruiting station and another U.S. military site, killing at least four Marines. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 16, 2015, upon his arrival on Marine One helicopter after a short trip from Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Obama was heading towards the Oval Office and there he would be briefed by his counterterrorism and homeland security adviser and the FBI director on the recent shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn. Obama promised a thorough and prompt investigation into an attack at two military sites that killed at least four Marines. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama claps along to the music as he arrives with first lady Michelle Obama for services honoring the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Friday, June 26, 2015, at the College of Charleston TD Arena in Charleston, S.C. Pinckney was one of the nine people killed in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last week in Charleston. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
In this June 19, 2015, photo, President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about gun violence at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco. Conceding that congressional action was unlikely soon, President Barack Obama said lawmakers will tighten federal firearms restrictions when they believe the public is demanding it. "I am not resigned," Obama said. "I have faith we will eventually do the right thing." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, pauses while speaking in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 18, 2015, on the church shooting in Charleston, S.C., prior to his departure to Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, June 18, 2015, on the church shooting in Charleston, S.C., prior to his departure to Los Angeles. The current brick Gothic revival edifice, completed in 1891 to replace an earlier building heavily damaged in an earthquake, was a mandatory stop for the likes of Booker T. Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Still, Emanuel was not just a church for the black community. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Barack Obama listens to a question during a Tumblr forum from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 10, 2014, moderated by Tumblr Founder and CEO David Karp, left. During the forum Obama conceded he was ashamed as an American and terrified as a parent that the United States can't find it in its soul to put a stop to rampant shooting sprees. Barring a fundamental shift in public opinion, Obama said, "it will not change." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama pauses while speaking during a memorial ceremony, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Fort Hood, Texas, for those killed there in a shooting last week. President Barack Obama is reprising his role as chief comforter as he returns once again to a grief-stricken corner of America to mourn with the families of those killed last week at Fort Hood and offer solace to the nation.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama arrive for a memorial ceremony, Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at Fort Hood Texas, for those killed there in a shooting last week. President Barack Obama is reprising his role as chief comforter as he returns once again to a grief-stricken corner of America to mourn with the families of those killed last week at Fort Hood and offer solace to the nation.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama is seen on stage before speaking about yesterday's shooting at Fort Hood, during an event welcoming members of the USs teams from the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, April 3, 2014, in the East Room of White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
AP10ThingsToSee - President Barack Obama hugs a family member of a victim of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks in Washington during a memorial service Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. A gunman killed 12 people in the Navy Yard on Sept. 16 before being fatally shot in a gun battle with law enforcement. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama attend a memorial service for the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting at Marine Barracks Washington Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. A gunman killed 12 people in the Navy Yard on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, before being fatally shot in a gun battle with law enforcement. The president and first lady Michelle Obama also visited with the victims' families. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Washington. Before speaking about the economy Obama spoke on the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, mourning what he called "yet another mass shooting" in the United States that he says took the life of American patriots. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
FILE - In this April 17, 2013 file photo President Barack Obama speaks in the White House Rose Garden of the White House about measures to reduce gun violence with former Rep. Gabby Giffords and family of victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. Six months after a gunman took their children's lives, some family members are headed back to Capitol Hill this week to remind lawmakers they are painfully waiting for action. From left are Neil Heslin, who lost his son Jesse Lewis; Giffords; Jimmy Greene, who lost his daughter Ana; Vice President Joe Biden; Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan; Mark and Jackie Barden, with their children Natalie and James, who lost their son Daniel; and Jeremy Richman, behind the Barden's, who lost his daughter Avielle. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
President Barack Obama looks at Nicole Hockley and her husband Ian, right, after she introduced him at the University of Hartford in Hartford, Conn., Monday, April 8, 2013. The Hockley's lost a child in the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtoen, Conn. Obama said that lawmakers have an obligation to the children killed and other victims of gun violence to act on his proposals. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Obama embraces a woman while honoring shooting victim's families during a visit to the University of Hartford, in Hartford, Conn., Monday, April 8, 2013. The President visited the school to highlight gun control legislation and to meet with the families of victims from the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2013, file photo, President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, talks about proposals to reduce gun violence at the White House in Washington. Obama has called for a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and is pushing other policies in the wake of the mass shooting last month at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. In response, gun-rights advocates have accused Obama and others of ignoring the Second Amendment rights of Americans. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden, left, hugs eight-year-old letter writer Grant Fritz during a news conference on proposals to reduce gun violence, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington. Obama and Biden were joined by law enforcement officials, lawmakers and children who wrote the president about gun violence following the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - This Dec. 16, 2012 file photo shows President Barack Obama pausing during a speech at an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, at Newtown High School in Newtown, Conn. The National Rifle Association, the nationâs largest gun lobby, suggested shielding children from gun violence by placing an armed police officer in every school by the time classes resume in January. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci, File)
President Barack Obama wipes his eye as he talks about the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, in the White House briefing room in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the Aurora, Colo., shooting at an campaign event at the Harborside Event Center in Ft. Myers, Fla., Friday, July 20, 2012. Obama, who was scheduled to spend the day campaigning in Florida, cancelled his campaign events to return to Washington to monitor the shooting. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - In this March 14, 2011, file photo President Barack Obama speaks at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va. More than five months after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head, the White House has yet to take any new steps on gun violence, even though thatâs what Obama called for in the wake of the shooting. (AP Photo, File)
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are joined by government employees on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 10, 2011, to observe a moment of silence for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and the other victims of an assassination attempt against her. The shooting at a town hall-style event outside a supermarket in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday left six dead, including a federal judge, and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at a memorial service for the victims of Saturday's shootings at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Victims' family members, along with President Obama, attend a memorial service at Fort Hood, Texas, for the victims of the Fort Hood shootings on Tuesday Nov. 10, 2009. (AP Photo/Jay Janner, POOL)
President Barack Obama speaks at a memorial service in Fort Hood, Texas on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2009 for the victims of Thursday's shootings. (AP Photo/Pool, Jay Janner)
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Republicans have roundly criticized the president's plans, calling them an overreach of his executive authority.

"This president wants to act as if he's a king, as if he's a dictator," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican presidential candidate, said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is going to be another illegal executive action, which I'm sure will be rejected by the courts."

Obama will take part in a one-hour town hall-style question-and-answer session on gun control broadcast on CNN at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday (0100 GMT on Friday), the White House said.

The event, moderated by anchor Anderson Cooper, will give Obama a chance to respond to criticism and raise public support for the measures before his State of the Union address on Jan. 12.

Obama launched a push to tighten U.S. gun laws after the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting massacre in 2012. But the push stalled in Congress. Last month's fatal shootings in San Bernardino, California, by a couple who authorities suspect were inspired by Islamic State, gave further impetus to the White House to try again through executive actions.

"It would be better for our security if it was harder for terrorists to purchase very powerful weapons," White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters on Saturday in Hawaii, where Obama was concluding a two-week vacation. The president returned to Washington on Sunday.

PUBLIC SUPPORT

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner who has said she would take executive action on guns if elected in the Nov. 8, 2016, election, praised Obama's anticipated move.

"I applaud the president for taking a hard look at that and I believe he will take some actions to require more gun sellers to do background checks," Clinton said during a stop in New Hampshire, according to her campaign.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed 65 percent of respondents saying it was important that gun control be addressed in the United States, while 29.4 percent said it was unimportant.

The Center for American Progress, a think tank with close ties to the White House, has called on Obama to target high-volume sellers of guns who are not licensed, using criteria such as the number of firearms sold and whether a seller advertises or rents tables at gun shows to determine who should be forced to obtain a license.

"There are many, many guns that are changing hands without a background check," said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of guns and crime policy at the group. Obama would be well within his executive authority to have the government to widen the number of sellers who are required to be licensed, she said.

Republicans zeroed in on Obama's attempt to go around Congress as a questionable way to advance his goals.

"His first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens, and it's wrong," said Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on "Fox News Sunday." "And to use executive powers he doesn't have is a pattern that is quite dangerous."

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