President Barack Obama, his cheeks wet with tears, his voice at times reaching a yell, has announced a plan to bypass Congress to restrict guns in the US.
In a White House press conference on Wednesday morning (AEDT), Mr Obama said he would personally issue executive orders to the departments under his control, rather than continue his doomed push for tougher laws.
“Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” he said, tears rolling down his cheeks, as he remembered the victims of the Sandy Hook primary school shooting of 2012.
“That changed me, that day,” he said, flanked by the families who lost 20 children and six adults to the violence.
“My hope earnestly has been that it would change the country.”
It did not. After the shooting, President signed 23 executive orders into effect to tighten background checks for gun buyers, but little seemed to change. On Wednesday, he pledged further action.
The new orders will reportedly close loopholes to the background check system by using the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which take direct orders from the President, not Congress.
For example, background checks would be enforced online and at gun shows, where they presently are not.
Obama repeated his criticism of the National Rifle Association (NRA), the world’s most powerful gun lobby, which has devoted huge resources to fighting tougher gun laws.
“All of us need to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies,” he said.
The executive orders are likely to be challenged in court, as the US constitution protects the right of Americans to bear arms.
Mr Obama said he supported this right, but argued it should be “balanced” with the problem of widespread violence.
“Second amendment rights are important, but other rights are important as well and we have to be able to balance them.”
Republican candidates for the presidency, such as Donald Trump, have denounced the plan, claiming it is an attack on civil liberties. They are likely to use the executive orders as part of a scare campaign to attract votes, as they have done in the past.
“Pretty soon you won’t be able to get guns,” Mr Trump said before the speech.
This is despite Obama’s measures being weaker than those proposed by Republican president Ronald Reagan in 1991.
The US will elect a new president in November this year. Obama urged his listeners to vote anti-gun candidates into Congress and the White House.
“All of us need to demand governors and legislators and businesses do their part to make our communities safer.”
-with AAP and ABC