SALT LAKE CITY — Trolley Square shooting victim Carolyn Tuft stood with an emotional President Barack Obama on Tuesday as he announced he was using his executive powers to tighten gun control regulations.
"That's a victory for my daughter who is not here, and that's the heartbreaking part about it," Tuft said after appearing with the president at the White House alongside a dozen other victims of gun violence.
Tuft was shot and her 15-year-old daughter, Kristin Hinckley, was killed while they were shopping for Valentine's Day cards on Feb. 12, 2007, when a lone gunman opened fire at the mall.
Now living with chronic pain as a result of gun pellets still in her body, Tuft, a gun violence prevention advocate, said she hopes no one else has to go through what she has endured.
"It shattered my life," she said.
Tuft praised the president's action, which broadens the definition of gun dealers in an effort to close the "gun show loophole" that permits sellers who aren't federally licensed gun dealers to skip background checks on buyers.
"I hope people aren't going to be fighting it, but the reality is, people already are," Tuft said. "I just hope people could step back and see that this is just really common sense and it's to protect us and our country, our communities."
More than three-quarters of Utahns support expanding background checks on gun sales to include purchases made online or at gun shows, according to a UtahPolicy.com poll released Tuesday.
Obama's executive order was soundly criticized by members of Utah's congressional delegation as going too far. But they stopped short of addressing why Congress has not acted to expand gun background checks.
"Congress is the one that's being derelict," longtime Utah pollster Dan Jones said. Those responding to the poll, he said, "really don't know when Congress is going to do something about it."
But Jones, who said he intends to conduct a new poll specifically on Obama's executive order, said members of the public also tend to oppose a president taking such action.
"They really don't like a lot of executive orders. They want the checks and balances," he said. "But the president does have that right. This comes with divided government, when you have a president of one party and a Congress of another."
Utah's all-Republican delegation had harsh words for Obama but little to say about the poll results. None of them directly answered a question about why Congress has not acted on the issue.
"The president's actions are out of bounds and vastly exceed his executive authority," Rep. Jason Chaffetz said, warning the "president's approach undermines the foundation of our democracy."
Rep. Rob Bishop called Obama "out of touch. He is exploiting tragedy for political gain. His proposals would not have prevented the recent tragedies our nation has endured. His requirements will not make the country safer."
For Rep. Chris Stewart, the "silver lining is that just like any executive action, this one could be rescinded if it doesn't have the support of the American people." He asked that the president "respect the proper role of Congress in crafting legislation."
Rep. Mia Love said the president "is once again bypassing Congress while infringing on the constitutional rights" of Americans.
Sen. Orrin Hatch said discussions "about our fundamental freedoms are best suited for the legislative process."
Sen. Mike Lee went further, saying the president "chose to mislead the American people today by claiming to close supposed 'loopholes' in existing law that never existed."
Lee's spokesman, Conn Carroll, said the law already spells out that only people "in the business" of selling guns have to conduct background checks and called the poll question's reference to gun shows and online sales highly misleading.
"People not in the business of selling guns don't have to perform background checks for sales wherever they happen, whether it is in their home, at a yard sale, at a gun show, online, at a circus, or wherever," he said.
Licensed dealers, Carroll said, have to do background checks on everyone making a purchase "no matter where they are sold, whether it is at a gun show, online, in their home, at their gun store, on Mars, wherever."70 comments on this story
Carroll compared calling that a loophole to suggesting there is a "food loophole" because, unlike a restaurant, having people over to dinner or baking cookies for a child's school doesn't require meeting health code requirements.
The poll released Tuesday, conducted Dec. 8-14, 2015, of 622 Utahns, asked specifically about legislation and did not refer to executive action. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus just under 4 percent.
More than half of the respondents, 52 percent, said they strongly support the expanded background checks, while 24 percent said they somewhat support the change.
Contributing: Brianna Bodily