Massachusetts Democrats line up with Obama on gun order

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BOSTON – Several of the state’s leading Democrats on Tuesday rushed to back President Barack Obama as he issued an executive order tightening gun controls by beefing up background checks on prospective buyers and imposing new restrictions on sellers.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh traveled to Washington to be one of several Democrats at Obama’s side in the White House when he announced his action. In a tearful speech, the president invoked the December 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre among his reasons for taking steps to close loopholes in background-check rules for sellers at events like flea markets and gun shows.

“I was proud to stand with President Obama today as he announced real actions to address gun violence and create safer communities,” Walsh said in a statement. “Requiring all gun purchases to include a background check is a common-sense, simple step which will make it harder for criminals and those who intend to commit crimes to access firearms.”

While Walsh touted the Bay State’s strict gun laws, he pointed out that 70 percent of the guns used by criminals in Boston come from out of state. He applauded tighter controls as a way to curb the supply of weapons flowing into the city.

Walsh drew his own share of praise, as Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) of the Massachusetts House of Representatives “saluted” the mayor for “being a strong advocate for Boston on the national stage” and “applauded” Obama’s orders, in a prepared statement of his own.

DeLeo also praised a state law passed in August 2014 beefing up local gun controls. The measure provided police with guidelines on denying firearm identification cards – needed to buy a gun or ammunition – to applicants deemed unsuitable, boosted fines for failing to report lost or stolen guns and authorized access by gun dealers to the federal background-check system.

DeLeo noted in his remarks that the Gun Violence Law Center, a San Francisco-based organization that bills itself as a promoter of “smart” gun laws, awarded Massachusetts with its highest score.

“With an issue as crucial as gun violence, we must always press on,” DeLeo said. He added that Obama’s actions mirror the efforts Massachusetts made as it “sought not only to be the safest state in our own country” but also one of the “safest places in the world.”

Guns & Ammo magazine cited the state’s 2014 law when it ranked Massachusetts the third-worst for gun owners, behind only New Jersey and New York.

Recent gun-control measures, however, have not reduced gun ownership. Even as Obama announced his order, shares of the Springfield-based gun maker Smith & Wesson Holding soared to a record after the company raised its sales forecast by 16 percent, according to Bloomberg News.

Gun sales overall surged to a “banner year” in 2015, the Boston Business Journal reported, and cited a Washington Post story documenting a surge in permit requests and pre-sale background checks. The Post report indicated that background checks in 2015 swelled 10 percent to 23.1 million from the previous year and up from 14.9 million in 2010.

“This matches a pattern we’ve seen plenty of times in the past: tragedy, followed by calls for gun control, followed by surging firearm sales,” the Post report surmised.

Predictably, Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s legislative arm,  criticized Obama’s order. Cox described Obama’s remarks as “condescending” in a statement that also ripped the president for his deliberate attempt to use law-abiding gun owners as “scapegoats” following mass shootings.

“The American people do not need more emotional, condescending lectures that are completely devoid of facts,” Cox said. “The fact is that President Obama’s proposals would not have prevented any of the horrific events he mentioned.”

As Tuesday wore on, more top Massachusetts Democrats heaped praise on Obama, including DeLeo and state Attorney General Maura Healey.

“Licensing all those who sell lethal weapons is a common-sense measure that is long overdue,” Healey said in a statement. “Enhanced and more efficient background checks and better sharing of information among law enforcement are critical components, too, of making sure that violent criminals don’t slip through the cracks of our system.”

Even before Obama made his actions official, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter Monday night to say the president had to move because Congress did not:

Even before Warren chimed in, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Malden, praised Obama’s action:

Issuing the executive order lets Obama take credit for doing something to advance gun control, wrote the National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke. But he said it will likely backfire.

“Every time the president talks about gun control, these numbers increase,” Cooke wrote Tuesday, referring to the recent surges in gun sales.

“By his own account, Obama wants to reduce, not increase, the number of guns in circulation,” Cooke said. “If history is anything to go by, this action will do precisely the opposite.”