An emotional Obama unveils his plan to cut gun violence

President Obama Outlines Executive Action on Gun Control

WASHINGTON (AP) — A visibly emotional President Barack Obama, at one point wiping tears from his cheek, unveiled his plan Tuesday to tighten control and enforcement of firearms in the U.S., using his presidential powers in the absence of legal changes he implored Congress to pass.

Obama accused the gun lobby of taking Congress hostage, but said "they cannot hold America hostage." He insisted it was possible to uphold the Second Amendment while doing something to tackle the frequency of mass shootings in the U.S. that he said had become "the new normal."

"This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns," Obama said in a ceremony in the East Room. "You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm. The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules."

Obama wiped tears away as he recalled the 20 first-graders killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He paid tribute to the parents, some of whom gathered for the ceremony, who he said had never imagined their child's life would be cut short by a bullet.

See Obama addressing the nation after past mass shootings:

2 PHOTOS
Obama addressing the nation on U.S. shootings & gun control during his presidency
See Gallery
An emotional Obama unveils his plan to cut gun violence
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," Obama said.

At the centerpiece of Obama's plan is a more sweeping definition of gun dealers that the administration hopes will expand the number of sales subject to background checks. Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks on buyers. But at gun shows, websites and flea markets, sellers often skirt that requirement by declining to register as licensed dealers.

Aiming to narrow that loophole, the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is issuing updated guidance that says the government should deem anyone "in the business" of selling guns to be a dealer, regardless of where he or she sells the guns. To that end, the government will consider other factors, including how many guns a person sells, how frequently, and whether those guns are sold for a profit.

See how politicians and others are reacting to Obama's plan:

12 PHOTOS
Social reactions to Obama gun control speech
See Gallery
An emotional Obama unveils his plan to cut gun violence
Thank you, @POTUS, for taking a crucial step forward on gun violence. Our next president has to build on that progress—not rip it away. -H
This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, & the country will not stand for it. https://t.co/YgNrG94tjg https://t.co/eMCSSSp3Rh
Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders on President Obama's executive actions @NBCDFW https://t.co/mGllswtasI
Statement from @RepKayGranger on President Obama's actions on gun control @NBCDFW https://t.co/mVTMgwmNCE
Barack Obama begins crying during WhiteHouse talk referring to the 20 slaughtered 1st graders in Newtown. The tears started & wouldn't stop.
I don't care who you are, where you're from, what you did, as long as you agree 1000% to Obama's brilliant and passionate gun control speech
Whether you agree with his policy or not you can't deny Obama has sincere compassion. Congress should take note and learn compassion
I am proud every day working for President Obama, but especially today #StopGunViolence
Tears or not, Obama's gun law has zero chance of passing. This is gonna keep happening. Wonder if that's part of his frustration/fury.
Wonder if Republicans will greet President Obama's executive orders on guns with #thoughtsandprayers
So Obama just blamed variously the NRA, the voters, Congress, and the Constitution for gun violence. Funny, never criminals or terrorists.
Cruz: "Those exec. orders are not worth the paper they're printed on bc when you live by the pen, you die by the pen & my pen has an eraser"
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The White House also put sellers on notice that the administration planned to strengthen enforcement — including deploying 230 new examiners the FBI will hire to process background checks.

The impact of Obama's plan on gun violence remains a major question, and one not easily answered. Had the rules been in place in the past, the steps wouldn't likely have prevented any of the recent mass shootings that have garnered national attention. The Obama administration acknowledged it couldn't quantify how many gun sales would be newly subjected to background checks, nor how many currently unregistered gun sellers would have to obtain a license.

Pushing back on that critique, Obama said every time the issue is debated, gun rights groups argue the steps wouldn't necessarily have stopped the last massacre, "so why bother trying?"

"I reject that thinking," Obama said, arguing it would be worth it if the measures would prevent even a single gun death. "We maybe can't save everybody, but we could save some."

To lend a personal face to the issue, the White House assembled a cross-section of Americans whose lives were altered by the nation's most searing recent gun tragedies, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and relatives of victims from Charleston, S.C., at Virginia Tech. Mark Barden, whose son was shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School, introduced the president with a declaration that "we are better than this."

Invoking the words of Martin Luther King Jr., Obama said, "We need to feel the fierce urgency of now."

Obama's package of executive actions aims to curb what he's described as a scourge of gun violence in the U.S., punctuated by appalling mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut; Charleston, South Carolina; and Tucson, Arizona, among many others. After Newtown, Obama sought far-reaching, bipartisan legislation that went beyond background checks.

When the effort collapsed in the Senate, the White House said it was thoroughly researching the president's powers to identify every legal step he could take on his own. But a more recent spate of gun-related atrocities, including in San Bernardino, California, shootings have spurred the administration to give the issue another look, as Obama seeks to make good on a policy issue that he's elevated time and again but has failed until now to advance.



More from AOL.com:
36 migrants killed in 2 boat disasters off Turkey
Wash. airport closed after plane slides off taxiway
1 US service member killed, 2 wounded in Afghanistan

Read Full Story