Illinois reps in Congress react to Obama's gun control executive orders
Area representatives in Congress reacted along party lines to President Barack Obama’s executive orders expanding background checks.
Obama’s announcement Tuesday that he was pushing ahead with firearms restrictions without congressional approval earned both praise and scorn from local lawmakers.
Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren, who represents the 14th congressional District, which covers most of McHenry County, said Obama is redefining who is a gun seller to an “arbitrary threshold” that targets law-abiding gun owners and that will not stop gun violence. Hultgren also brought up the scandal in which the IRS was targeting conservative groups as proof the Obama administration’s “activists” can’t be trusted to enforce rules created by executive fiat.
“Americans shouldn’t have to bring their lawyer to a gun show, nor should they fear a knock on the door because they sold or traded legal firearms to their relatives or other gun collectors,” Hultgren said.
The main provision of Obama’s executive orders will require more gun sellers, such as those who do business on the Internet, to be licensed and therefore conduct background checks on purchasers. The order does not enact new regulation, but expands the definition of who is in the business of selling firearms under federal law.
Conversely, Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin hailed the administration’s decision.
Durbin cited the 2,939 people shot in Chicago last year, and cited the American public’s support for expanding background checks. He called the executive orders necessary because of Congressional refusal to pass any reforms.
“The president has a list of things he can do – it won’t solve all these problems by a long shot, but it moves us in the right direction. I appreciate his efforts to do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people while ensuring that Second Amendment rights are protected,” Durbin said in a statement.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is running for the Senate seat occupied by Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, likewise applauded the new limitations. While Kirk did not make a public statement Tuesday afternoon, he has a consistent voting record in expanding background checks and supporting other gun control legislation – he is the only Republican senator with an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association.
“The president’s new proposals are small steps toward where we ought to be, but he cannot enact meaningful firearm safety reforms on his own. We must not ignore these tragedies any longer – Congress must finally act in the best interests of the American people, close risky loopholes and pass legislation to keep these weapons out of the hands [of] terrorists, criminals and the dangerously mentally ill,” Duckworth wrote.
Other executive orders invest more money in mental health, research into “smart gun” technology and hiring more federal agents, although funding will require congressional approval. Obama’s order also directs the FBI, which administers the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to hire hundreds of personnel to process background checks 24 hours a day.
Obama’s actions brought strong condemnation from new House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, whose district borders McHenry County.
“He knows full well that the law already says that people who make their living selling firearms must be licensed, regardless of venue. Still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty,” Ryan said in a statement.
Local gun stores reacted to Obama’s executive orders the way they have reacted to his previous initiatives – by preparing for a surge in sales.
Marengo Guns owner Dominic DeBock said business already is picking up, and that’s on top of what he called a “phenomenal” holiday season.
“Anytime there’s conversation about gun control, whether it makes sense or whether it doesn’t, it generates traffic,” DeBock said.
Background check requests in recent years have shattered records, although not every background check results in the purchase of a firearm. Newly released national numbers for December reveal that background checks increased almost 40 percent over December 2014.
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank across the board Monday, stocks in gun manufacturers increased in the wake of strong holiday sales – further fueled by personal safety concerns in the wake of recent terrorist attacks and mass shootings – and an anticipated increase in purchases in the wake of Obama’s announcement. Shares of Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., the world’s largest firearm manufacturer, increased 12 percent on Tuesday. Stock in gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. increased 7 percent.