NRA angered by Democrat frontrunner, who said Australia’s gun laws had been successful after 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
United States President Barack Obama has indicated he may bypass Congress in his bid to increase gun control in the final year of his presidency.
In his weekly radio address on Friday, Obama said he will meet Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday to discuss what options he can take, saying his New Year’s resolution was to move forward on tackling the US epidemic of gun violence.
“Last month, we remembered the third anniversary of Newtown,” Obama said, referring to the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 that left 20 children and six adults dead.
“This Friday, I’ll be thinking about my friend [former Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords, five years into her recovery from the shooting in Tucson.
“And all across America, survivors of gun violence and those who lost a child, a parent, a spouse to gun violence are forced to mark such awful anniversaries every single day.
“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one?”
Obama said he had recently directed his White House staff to investigate what new actions he could take to reduce gun violence.
With time running out on his presidency, and with little prospect of reaching common ground with Congress on the highly contentious guns issue, Obama is expected to resort to the use of executive powers that would allow him to unilaterally impose certain new anti-gun measures.
Citing sources, the Washington Post reported that the executive actions may include a requirement for some unlicensed gun dealers to get licenses and conduct background checks on potential customers.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 1, 2016
Obama most recently made a plea for tougher gun-control measures in November after three people were killed at a family-planning centre in Colorado.
That attack came after an armed man killed nine people at a college in Oregon in October, while in June, a white attacker killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina.
The issue of gun control has polarised the US legislature and divided the nation, with Americans holding radically different views on the pros and cons of gun ownership.
The depth of the schism could be seen in new laws that went into effect on Friday in Republican-red Texas and its political polar opposite states of California and Oregon.
The new gun law in California would make it easier for courts to seize the firearms of people deemed to present a danger to themselves or others.
In its west coast neighbour, the liberal state of Oregon, a measure took effect barring anyone convicted of certain domestic abuse offenses from having guns or ammunition.
Gun-friendly Texas, meanwhile, on Friday introduced an “open carry” law meaning gun owners no longer will be required to conceal their weapons when packing heat.
Republican Texas Governor Rick Abbott reacted to Obama’s weekly address on Twitter, saying: “Obama wants to impose more gun control. My response.#? COME & TAKE IT”