US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton unveils plan to tighten US gun laws

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a town hall event at Manchester Community College on Monday in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a town hall event at Manchester Community College on Monday in Manchester, New Hampshire.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Following the latest deadly US campus shooting, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton offered proposals Monday to tighten the nation's gun laws, even if she needs to do so by decree.

The cornerstone of the plan is to prevent violent criminals, people accused of domestic abuse, and the mentally ill from acquiring firearms, largely by expanding the background check system for weapons purchases and closing loopholes that allow millions of Internet and gun-show weapons sales to go unscreened.

"I'm determined to do something about it and I'll try in every way I can to get those guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them," the former secretary of state said on NBC Monday, four days after a gunman murdered nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

Should Congress continue to refuse to pass legislation requiring background checks on all arms sales, especially for those conducted over the Internet or at gun shows, Clinton pledged to act unilaterally.

Under the plan released by her campaign, Mrs Clinton would "take administrative action" to require high-volume gun sellers to conduct background checks on gun sales, the same rule that gun stores are bound by.

Between 20 per cent and 40 per cent of all arms sales transactions occur without such screenings, a major loophole in federal law, Mrs Clinton said.

She also threatened to remove the "unique" legal immunity that protects gun manufacturers and dealers against law suits, and would boost funding for more inspections of gun stores, aggressive enforcement of existing law, and punishment of dealers who break the law.

Mrs Clinton also proposed banning persons required to undergo treatment for serious mental illness, such as the man who murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, from buying firearms.

Mrs Clinton's threat to circumvent Congress on some proposals guarantees her stiff opposition from the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association.

She will also face criticism from congressional Republicans, who for years have accused President Barack Obama of abusing his executive powers to override congressional opposition on health care, immigration and the environment.

In 2013, just months after a man used a semi-automatic rifle to murder 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, the Senate blocked legislation that would have expanded background checks.

No such federal measure has been adopted since, although individual states have acted to strengthen their gun regulations.