A visibly emotional President Barack Obama, at one point wiping tears from his cheek, unveiled his plan on Tuesday to tighten control and enforcement of firearms in the US, 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 (which allows citizens to carry arms) while doing something to tackle the frequency of mass shootings in the US 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.
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.