By Lara Seligman - 08/29/13 01:47 PM EDT
The Obama administration on Thursday imposed new limits on the import of military surplus firearms and closed a loophole that allows felons and others to get guns by circumventing background checks.
Democrats in the Senate were unable in April to garner enough votes for a bill that would have expanded the background check system and cracked down on gun trafficking.
“Even as Congress fails to act on common-sense proposals, like expanding criminal background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime, the president and vice president remain committed to using all the tools in their power to make progress toward reducing gun violence,” according to a White House statement released on Thursday.
The Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives issued a new proposed regulation that would close a loophole that allows felons and others to easily evade background checks by registering weapons to a trust or corporation.
The second action would ban the re-import of surplus military-grade firearms, with a few exceptions.
Vice President Biden unveiled the proposals in a ceremony to swear in the new director of ATF, Todd Jones, on Thursday.
Biden reaffirmed the White House's commitment to stricter gun control measures, calling the new executive actions a “simple common sense way to reduce gun violence.”
“The president and I are going to continue to do work with the Congress to continue to strength gun safety laws in this country,” Biden said. “If Congress doesn’t act, we’ll fight for a new Congress. It’s that simple. But we’re going to get this done.”
Obama added the executive actions to a list of 23 steps the White House determined the president could take as part of a comprehensive gun violence reduction plan.
The move indicates that Obama has not lost sight of the effort to reduce gun violence after the fatal shooting of 20 first graders and six adults last year at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Obama told a gathering of big-city mayors earlier this week that he would continue to build on his plan to combat gun violence in major cities through the use of executive actions.
Attorney General Eric Holder and the mayors of 18 cities across the nation attended, including: Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., the Democratic candidate for his state's open U.S. Senate seat; Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter; Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake; Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo.; and Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said earlier this month that the chamber will likely revisit a measure to expand background checks, although he acknowledged that negotiations over the nation’s fiscal house would preclude action on guns this fall.
Updated at 11:53 a.m.