Obama
US President Barack Obama get emotional as he speaks on reducing gun violence in the East Room of the White HouseGetty

Improved background checks, developing firearm technology and increasing help to those with mental health were some of the executive actions announced by President Barack Obama as part of his bid to decrease gun violence in the US.

Obama, who previously described his inability to strengthen gun laws in the US during his time as President as his biggest regret, invoked the murdered Martin Luther King while announcing new restrictions on guns.

At one stage, Obama was visibly on the verge of tears when he mentioned the young children who were victims of the Sandy Hook mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. He said: "Every time I think about those kids, it makes me mad."

Obama also mentioned by many people's basic freedom have in the US have been taken away because of guns, such as freedom of religion taken from Christians in Charlestown and Jews in Overland Park, and the freedom of assembly taken from cinema-goers who were shot in in Colorado and Louisiana.

He said: "We are the only advanced country on earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries – it's not even close. Somehow, we've become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal, and instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarising partisan debates."

The president also accused the pro-gun lobby of holding Congress hostage with regards to changing the current firearm laws, but warned they cannot "hold America hostage".

He said: "We do have to feel a sense of urgency about it. In Dr King's words, we need to feel the fierce urgency of now, because people are dying. And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do."

As part of his administration's plans, Obama hopes to increase background checks for buyers of firearms online or at gun shows "This is not a plot to take away everybody's guns," Obama added. "You pass a background check, you purchase a firearm. The problem is we've created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules.

"I believe we can find ways to reduce gun violence in ways consistent with the Second Amendment," he said, referring to US constitutional right to bear arms.

Obama also hopes to update firearm technology to help reduce guns being fired by the wrong person, or even a child. The President referenced how fingerprint technology can be implemented on to make sure they cannot be operated by people who have stolen them.

He added: "If a child can't open a bottle of aspirin, we can make sure they can't pull a trigger on a gun."

Among the proposals announced were:

  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that 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.
  • ATF is finalizing a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity.
  • Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified because of a mental illness, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.
  • The FBI is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.
  • The Attorney General issued a memo encouraging every U.S. Attorney's Office to renew domestic violence outreach efforts.
  • Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.
  • A new $500m (£340m) investment to increase access to mental health care.