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President Obama Pushes to Increase Gun Buyer Background Checks

President Obama directed federal agencies Monday to carry out a series of steps intended to reduce gun violence.
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President Barack Obama directed federal agencies Monday to carry out a series of steps to reduce gun violence, including measures to restrict sales by unlicensed dealers — sometimes called the gun show loophole.

Regulators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will clarify that anyone engaged in the business of selling firearms must get a federal firearms dealers license and check the backgrounds of all buyers.

"The goal is keeping bad actors away from firearms," said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Federal law exempts from the license requirement anyone who sells guns only occasionally, as a hobby or to enhance a collection from. But ATF will put sellers on notice that whether they are engaged in an actual business or not depends on several factors, including how quickly they sell they guns they acquire, whether they sell guns for more than they paid for them, and how often and in what quantity they sell firearms.

"These rules will provide clear notice to those individuals who try to hide behind the hobby exception when they are selling for a profit or for a business," Lynch said.

"It doesn't matter where you conduct your business — from a store, at gun shows or over the Internet. If you're in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks," said White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.

The FBI is working to hire 230 more examiners who work to conduct the federal background checks on gun buyers. In 2015, roughly 22.2 million checks were conducted.

ATF will also notify firearms dealers that they must file a report when guns from their inventory are lost or stolen, including those in transit. A White House statement said an average of 1,333 guns recovered from crime scenes in each of the past five years were traced back to dealers who never received them.

White House officials said the administration would seek funding from Congress to allow ATF to hire 200 new agents and investigators to enforce gun laws. It will also seek $500 million to increase access to mental health care.

The measures "will potentially save lives in this country and spare families the pain and extraordinary loss they've suffered as result of guns being in the hands of the wrong people," Obama told reporters.

The president's remarks followed a meeting with Attorney General Lynch, FBI Director James Comey and a top ATF official. Obama said they'd shared recommendations on gun control, the result of a three-month review aimed at keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and people who are "mentally unstable."

"The good news is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they're also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe in," the president said.

He also said the measures would be "consistent with the Second Amendment and people's lawful right to bear arms."