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Barack Obama's gun control measures: What are they?

In a speech full of emotions ranging from frustration to sadness, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday outlined the gun control actions he will take using his executive powers. Here's a summary of what those actions are.

U.S. president uses executive powers to widen background checks for gun buyers

A man fires an AR-15 rifle at the National Armory gun store and gun range on Tuesday in Pompano Beach, Fla. — the same day U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to tighten control and enforcement of firearms in the U.S. (Lynne Sladky/Associated Press)

In a speech full of emotions ranging from frustration to sadness, U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday outlined the gun control actions he will take using his executive powers.

Here's a summary of those actions:

1. Background checks for everyone

The centrepiece of Obama's plan is an attempt to narrow the loophole that exempts gun buyers from background checks if the seller isn't a federal registered dealer. With new federal "guidance," the administration is clarifying that even those who sell just a few weapons at gun shows, flea markets or online can be deemed dealers and required to conduct checks on prospective buyers.

Whether that step can make a significant dent in unregulated gun sales is an open question, and one not easily answered.

Millions of guns are sold annually in informal settings outside of gun shops, including many through private sales arranged online. But the Obama administration acknowledged it couldn't quantify how many gun sales would be newly subjected to background checks, or how many currently unregistered gun sellers would have to obtain a licence.

The White House said the FBI will hire more than 230 examiners and other staff to help process background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Under current laws, gun sellers can finalize a sale if the customer's background check has not been completed within three days.  

2. Increase enforcement in communities

The president's next budget will include funding for 200 more Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents to enforce gun laws, said the White House. The ATF is also finalizing a rule to make sure dealers notify law enforcement if guns they are shipping are lost or stolen en route.

3.  Address mental illness

"While individuals with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, incidents of violence continue to highlight a crisis in America's mental health system," said the White House. "In addition to helping people get the treatment they need, we must make sure we keep guns out of the hands of those who are prohibited by law from having them." 

The White House said the Department of Health and Human Services is "finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons."

The Obama administration is also proposing an investment of $500 million for increased access to mental health care. 

4. Improve gun safety technology

The White House said it is issuing a "presidential memorandum" to the departments of Defence, Justice and Homeland Security to increase research into reducing accidental discharges of guns, unauthorized use of firearms and the tracing of lost or stolen guns. The president is also directing the departments to look at "smart gun technology."

With files from The Associated Press

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