By Gabriel Rom
Queens Democrats came out in uniform support Tuesday for President Barack Obama’s executive actions to try and curb gun violence throughout the country.
Speaking at the East Room at the White House and flanked by victims of gun violence and their families, the president became visibly emotional as he spoke of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
“First graders,” the President said. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad.”
Obama will seek to expand criminal background checks for gun buyers. He will also instruct the government to hire more personnel to process background checks, improve mental health services, direct officials to conduct more gun research and bolster enforcement in small communities.
The announcement comes at a moment when gun policy has become a politically toxic issue after years of deadlock in Congress over gun-reform bills.
“These are much-needed, life-saving steps, but the fact remains that the president cannot solve this crisis on his own,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights). “Congress needs to be a partner if we’re going to achieve the comprehensive reform that is critical to protecting our communities and families.”
The proposed reforms fall short of making background checks universal, as failed 2013 legislation would have done.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), a longtime gun control advocate who is currently lead sponsor of five gun-violence prevention bills in Congress, released a forceful statement.
“Americans are tired of killing,” she said. “They are tired of our streets, schools, churches and other public spaces being treated as war zones… President Obama is taking appropriate action to require more gun sellers to have a Federal License, thereby expanding background checks.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens), who is a member of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, also welcomed Obama’s announcement.
“As a member of the House, I would have preferred that Congress pass improved gun laws. But with Republican leaders still refusing to act, the president had no choice but to take these actions that are well within his authority.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) faces high incidents of gun violence in his district.
“In November, 114 other members of Congress and I decided we could no longer permit Republican stubbornness in Congress to thwart progress and deny the American people safety,” Meeks said. “Today, President Obama answered our calls and those around the nation pleading for gun reform. Though President Obama has taken bold action, Congress is not off the hook.”
The president’s speech was not welcomed by everyone, however.
Soon after Obama’s speech, Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association, accused Obama of engaging in “political rhetoric instead of offering meaningful solutions” and said the president’s actions would only make things worse.
Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@