President Obama and his family returned to the White House on Sunday. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times
Renewing his emphasis on the need for more gun restrictions, President Obama will participate in a live televised town-hall-style meeting on Thursday to discuss gun violence in the United States, according to the White House.
The hour-long event, at George Mason University outside Washington, will be televised on CNN at 8 p.m. On Monday, Mr. Obama will meet with Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to discuss what executive actions he can take to curb gun violence.
After the shootings that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2, Mr. Obama’s initial response focused on the need for gun restrictions. The administration soon realized, however, that this message had not reassured many Americans that the president was sufficiently addressing the Islamic State, the extremist group that inspired that attack and carried out one in Paris in November that left 130 people dead.
So, through much of December, Mr. Obama took part in a series of public events in an effort to convince the nation that his administration was doing everything it could to battle the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
This week, he will return to pressing for more gun restrictions.
“It would be better for our security if it was harder for terrorists to purchase very powerful weapons,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said in a briefing for reporters in Hawaii on Saturday. “At a certain point, violence begets more violence.”
Gun sales surged after the San Bernardino attack, as some Americans sought protection against the threat of Islamic extremists. Mr. Rhodes said such purchases were not an effective way to defend against a complicated terrorism threat.
“Even if you think about the plots that we have stopped from going forward,” Mr. Rhodes said, “it’s not like in a movie where we shot someone just as they were about to detonate a suicide vest.”
Instead, counterterrorism efforts largely rely on intelligence and law enforcement activities, he said. He called efforts to arm citizens a slippery slope.
“That’s why they have a government,” Mr. Rhodes said. “They have a government to provide security against the threat of terrorism.”
The White House has focused on an executive action that would detail who should be considered a high-volume gun dealer, a move that could expand background checks to a huge number of sales at gun shows and online.
The Republican presidential candidates on Sunday dismissed any potential executive action on guns as an abuse of power.
“His first impulse is always to take rights away from law-abiding citizens, and it’s wrong,” Jeb Bush said of Mr. Obama on “Fox News Sunday.” “And to use executive powers he doesn’t have is a pattern that is quite dangerous.”
Mr. Bush added that gun control measures should be considered at the state level, rather than the federal level.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said he supported the president’s executive efforts, even as he called for gun safety legislation.