President Obama is known for keeping his emotions in check, but on the issue of gun control, the emotion flows freely. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

In the wake of the murder of two dozen children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, President Obama pledged to take action to curtail gun violence in the United States. He pushed for new legislation in Congress, but it stalled, rapidly, in the Senate. After that, he pledged to leverage his executive authority where possible to accomplish the same end. On Monday evening, hours before the public unveiling, he released details of those planned actions to the media.

There are no new laws included in the mix, of course, since this is Obama's attempt to work around an unmoving Congress. What's included in the package is largely incremental, so much so that a National Rifle Association spokesperson said to the New York Times, "This is the proposal they've spent seven years putting together? They're not really doing anything."

What is included, though, is a shift in the definition of "gun dealer" that would include more people who sell firearms at gun shows, more resources to enforce existing gun laws and more attention paid to mental health screenings, among other things.

All of those things are politically popular -- save one.

The gun control advocacy group founded by former Arizona representative Gabby Giffords polled on the definitional shift at the heart of the Obama proposal. Nearly three-quarters of Americans support expanding who counts as a gun dealer.


That is layered on top of a similar question that's been asked many times in the past: Americans broadly support efforts to expand background checks for gun sales, including at gun shows.


What's more, a majority of Americans -- though not a majority of Republicans -- think it's too easy to buy a gun as it is.


While we're talking about laws in this context, not executive actions, most Americans do think that gun laws should be more strict, according to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll.


All of that aside, Obama's proposal includes two long-time components of the NRA's advocacy. A large majority of Americans think that mental health screening for gun sales should be improved.


And while the survey data here is somewhat old, most people think that a stronger focus on enforcement of gun laws makes sense.


All of that suggests that Americans support the major components of Obama's proposals.

So where do they disagree? The country is much more split on whether or not Obama should use executive actions to accomplish his goals. The Post and ABC News polled on this in January of 2014, and a flat 50 percent of the country thought it was the right way to go. It's hard to say if this has changed significantly over the last two years, but it's clear that partisan sentiment about the president colors his proposal.


The proposals he's outlining are generally popular, even if he isn't. There's a likely reason that these actions are coming now, as opposed to two years ago: President Obama no longer needs to worry much about electoral politics.