Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gun Control: Obama's "Momentous" Executive Actions

In the wake of President Obama's news conference on guns, here is the official list of his 23 executive orders.

1. "Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system."
2. "Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system."
3. "Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system."
4. "Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks."
5. "Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun."
6. "Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers."
7. "Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign."
8. "Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission)."
9. "Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations."
10. "Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement."
11. "Nominate an ATF director."
12. "Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations."
13. "Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime."
14. "Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence."
15. "Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies."
16. "Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes."
17. "Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities."
18. "Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers."
19. "Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education."
20. "Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover."
21. "Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges."
22. "Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations."
23. "Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health."
So there it is, Mr and Mrs America-and all ships at sea. Don't you feel better now?
That's pretty much all he could do-create more work and paper work for the government and doctors in the mental health field. Of course, he is also proposing that Congress ban assault weapons and limit the number of rounds in a magazine, etc. Meanwhile, he is ordering the Center for Disease Control to study the causes and prevention of gun violence. Wonderful. And whatever came out of that meeting between Joe Biden and the Hollywood types? I guess Hollywood told him to stuff it and that's that. Meanwhile, the new bloodthirsty thrillers keep pouring out including ham actor Tom Cruise as some ass-kicker named Jack Tripper or Jack Reacher, I forget which. 
In reality, I don't see a need for the average citizen to buy assault weapons, and I have nothing against background checks. Maybe a ban on assault weapons will, in fact, prevent a mass attack in a school by some crazed lunatic, but we may never know. I am willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt here.
However, some of Obama's statements invite a rebuttal. For example, he stated that 40% of gun sales have been conducted without background checks. Yet, this evening on Mark Levin's radio program, John Lott (who knows a thing or two about guns) said that the overwhelming majority of those cases involve fathers and other family members passing on guns to their sons or members of their family (not selling). In addition, Obama claimed that 1.5 million bad guys, crazy guys etc. have been prevented from buying guns through background checks. Again, Lott explains that the overwhelming majority of those cases involve people who were initially flagged due to factors like same names and eventually cleared to buy the guns. He quoted as an example, Ted Kennedy, who 5 times found himself on a no-fly list when he tried to board an airplane. (Eventually, he was able to board flights.)
Again, I have nothing against an assault weapons ban, but please tell me how that is going to stop the true gun violence we have in America. Is that going to stop the liquor store hold-ups or the gang shootings in Chicago or Los Angeles? Those  primarily involve use of pistols and revolvers. If we ban those, we prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting their homes and families leaving them at the mercy of the bad guys who already possess millions of these weapons and are not about to turn them in.
Another issue is the Second Amendment itself, which was passed not to allow people to protect themselves in their homes from gangs and street criminals, but in defense against a tyrannical government. If you want to argue that such a thinking is outdated in America, fine; that is a legitimate argument. It is easy to argue that America's democracy is so resilient that the idea of a violent revolution here is unthinkable. Watergate itself showed that our country could survive a presidency that had abused its powers. On the other hand, some would argue that the current administration is working to strip us of certain rights. Today, those debates are more heated.
In addition, Obama made a reference to Congress strengthening laws against people who buy guns on behalf of others who want to use them for criminal purposes. Fine, but I also noticed Eric Holder sitting in the audience, who, in my opinion, is ultimately to blame (if not Obama himself) for ATF's Operation Fast and Furious, which involved the very same thing. Maybe Holder should be the first one indicted.
In addition, Obama says that Congress should confirm a permanent director for ATF, an agency which has not had a permanent director for 6 years. He wants to nominate one now. Excuse me, Mr President, but you have been in office for 4 years now. Why have you waited until now to advocate for a permanent director of ATF?
There is no easy solution. Our gun culture is borne of our history and culture. We are not Europe. We have millions of guns out there, both legal and illegal. A gun-free society is not practical. I am not an NRA person, and I am just as horrified by the Newtowns as the next person. I don't have the answer, but one good idea would be to make the penalties for crimes committed with guns truly draconian. But as long as we have the violent society we have and the crime rate we have, I will always support the right of law-abiding people to possess the means to protect themselves, their families and their homes.
If you think you have the answers, tell me where I am wrong.


Squid said...

I must say that the majority of the Obama "Executive Actions" are reasonable. The direction to take action on gun safety, locks/security, universal background checks may help. Mention of mental health is important, but as in the past, the laws on the books regarding mentally ill and gun possession have been given a pass, as all of the school shooters have had mental health issues. If current laws were followed, we would have less bloody incidents.
Obama did not address violence in the video game- land or Hollywood. It appears that this weekend was on of the bloodiest in the Hollywood film history (see the link at the end of this post).
There are programs for school safety and prevention of targeted shootings. But, these programs get put on the back-burner, as shootings are rare and schools would rather concentrate on the latest curriculum.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

You're mostly right, and so is Squid. But the reason the ATF hasn't had a director for six years is that Republicans in the senate promised to filibuster any nominee. A lot of powers in the GOP don't want a functional AFT at all.

I fully agree on people owning guns to protect their homes and families. I think in a dense urban environment like Chicago or Los Angeles, carrying guns in public could reasonably be controlled. Its like "viewpoint neutral time, place, and manner" regulation of free speech.

As for defense against tyranny, there may be a legitimate way to restore the original role of the militia, which was not a junior branch of the army, like the National Guard, but a real citizen body, well-regulated, but citizen volunteers. The assault rifles and large capacity magazines should not be stored in an individual's home. They should be sufficiently decentralized that a tyrannical government can't round them up all at once, like the Governor of Massachusetts intended in 1775. Some of these issues should be talked out carefully.