The White House said that the Social Security Administration had indicated that it would begin a rulemaking process "to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons."
Hitting the issue of gun violence from other angles, the Obama administration is requesting resources for 200 new ATF employees to help enforce the law and proposing a new $500 million investment for mental health care access. The president also directed the Departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to conduct or sponsor research into safer gun technology.
Obama concluded his announcement with a long term call for political action.
"If we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote, we can find the courage to get mobilized and organized," he said. "We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do. That's what we're doing today, and tomorrow we should do more, and we should do more the day after that."
Politicians and lobby groups were quick to comment on Obama's executive actions.
In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan said: "The president has never respected the right to safe and legal gun ownership that our nation has valued since its founding."
"He knows full well that the law already says that people who make their living selling firearms must be licensed, regardless of venue," Ryan said. "Still, rather than focus on criminals and terrorists, he goes after the most law-abiding of citizens. His words and actions amount to a form of intimidation that undermines liberty."
Promising "vigilant oversight" into the White House initiatives and predicting court challenges, Ryan said that "no matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment."
Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement that Obama "has chosen to engage in political rhetoric instead of offering meaningful solutions to our nation's pressing problems," suggesting that the president was pushing actions "ripe for abuse" as a way of distracting the citizenry from the issue of terrorism.
"The American people do not need more emotional, condescending lectures that are completely devoid of facts," Cox said. "The timing of this announcement, in the eighth and final year of his presidency, demonstrates not only political exploitation but a fundamental lack of seriousness."
Democrats, including the party's presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders applauded Obama's actions.
—Reuters contributed to this report.