President Obama announced a series of executive actions on gun control on Tuesday during an emotional briefing in the East Room of the White House. During that briefing, Obama wiped away tears as he listed the victims of mass shootings, including the first graders who lost their lives in Newtown, Connecticut.
But even before Obama took the podium, nearly all of the leading Republican presidential candidates had already promised to repeal his actions.
The pledges began on Sunday, when news media revealed that Obama was planning executive moves to prevent gun violence. At the time, the contents of those actions were unknown — but that didn’t stop Republican candidates from condemning them and the president, and pledging to undo the policies if elected.
Since Sunday, more details about the president’s plan have emerged. Ten separate actions are expected, including one particularly controversial move to require more gun sellers to conduct background checks on potential buyers. The plan also includes a $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care, and a boost for gun safety research, among other things.
Here’s how each Republican candidate reacted to President Obama’s announcement.
Chris Christie: Obama is a “petulant child.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, once seen as a moderate on gun control, has taken a different tone during his campaign for president. On Sunday, the man who once signed 10 gun control bills into law called president Obama a “petulant child” for planning executive action on guns.
“This president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator,” Christie said. The governor also said he was confident that courts would reject Obama’s executive actions, but that if they didn’t, “I’m sure that ultimately the next president will make sure that he abdicates those extra constitutional actions.”
Ben Carson: Obamacare is bad.
Though the president’s gun control measures would not have the effect of banning guns in America, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said on CNN that the public should not necessarily trust that to be true. The reason: Obamacare.
“This is coming from a president who said, “If you like your doctor you can keep him,'” Carson said. “So now he’s saying, ‘If you like your gun you can keep it’ — I don’t know if I completely trust that.”
Pres. Obama has told us to trust him on gun rights – just like "if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor". https://t.co/uOrHqK1e0S
— Dr. Ben Carson (@RealBenCarson) January 5, 2016
Donald Trump: “I will unsign that so fast.”
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump also chimed in on Sunday, promising to “unsign” any gun control action Obama takes.
“I will veto,” he said. “I will unsign that so fast. So fast.”
Jeb Bush: Gun control “takes away people’s rights.”
On Tuesday afternoon, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released a video ostensibly in response to Obama’s executive actions (he didn’t mention the actions specifically, but rather “any” effort by the president).
“I will fight as hard as I can against any effort by this president, or by any liberal that wants to take away people’s rights that are embedded in the Bill of Rights, embedded in our Constitution,” he said.
At a campaign event on Tuesday, Bush said Obama did not have the legal authority to issue executive actions on gun control, and should instead go through Congress if he wants to take action. Congress has refused to pass any measure tightening gun laws despite multiple recent mass shootings and repeated pleas for action from the president.
Ted Cruz: Obama’s actions “go after our right to keep and bear arms.”
Like many of those he’s running against, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on Monday characterized Obama’s executive actions as an attack on the Second Amendment.
“President Obama is talking about this week issuing yet another executive order trying to go after our right to keep and bear arms,” Cruz said.
Cruz also called the actions an “abuse” of executive power, and promised to repeal them if elected.
Mike Huckabee: Ban abortion
Strangely but perhaps not unexpectedly, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee used Obama’s executive action as an opportunity to advocate for an abortion ban. On Tuesday, he tweeted that Obama should give constitutional rights to fetuses if he wants to save lives.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) January 5, 2016
Marco Rubio: “It will not stop the criminals.”
At a campaign event on Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) criticized the president’s impending executive actions as an attack on the Second Amendment, and argued that they would do nothing to stop gun violence in America.
“Law-abiding gun owners are not the problem in this country,” he said. “The problem are criminals, and criminals don’t care what laws you pass. You can pass all the gun laws in the world that you want. It will not stop the criminals.”
Rubio also said he would immediately repeal the orders if elected president.
Carly Fiorina: Focus on ISIS.
Former HP executive Carly Fiorina on Sunday said that President Obama should stop talking about gun control, and start talking about terrorist group ISIS.
“It is delusional, dangerous, not to mention unconstitutional for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to continue to talk about climate change and gun control in the wake of a Paris terrorist attack, a San Bernardino terrorist attack, instead of talking about a plan to defeat [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria],” she said.
Of the executive orders, Fiorina said Obama should enforce the laws already on the books, rather than create new ones. As it happens, Obama’s executive actions include increased funding for enforcement, including funding for 200 new ATF agents and investigators, and $4 million to track illegal online firearms trafficking.