So, just how bad are President Obama’s new executive actions on guns?
According to Charles Cooke at National Review, the answer is “not very.” That’s because they’re not an ambitious gun grab, but supposedly trimming around the edges of gun rights. Cooke says:
[H]e’s going to use a good deal of his last year’s political capital in order to tweak a few minor rules around the edges? Why? Even if we’re generous and presume that every single one of these regulations finds its way permanently into the law, he will nevertheless have done nothing substantial to further “universal background checks”; he will have instituted none of his coveted magazine limits; and he will have banned none of the weapons that he disdains.
There’s truth to this – Obama pitched this as a big move on guns, and it simply isn’t that big.
But as always, there’s a catch.
The catch is that Obama’s executive agency interpretation of his executive actions will be crushingly broad. And there is plenty of room for such interpretation, according to the White House fact sheet.
Here are the three major provisions pushed by the Obama administration:
1. Expanded Background Checks To Include Individuals Selling Individual Guns. According to the fact sheet, “The most important thing we can do to prevent gun violence is to make sure those who would commit violent acts cannot get a firearm in the first place.” How will the feds magically achieve this? They will “Clarify that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business – from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.” But you’re already bound by federal law to go through a background check if you buy over the internet, at a gun show, or from a store. And it’s already illegal for you to possess a firearm if you are a criminal. So what is the White House talking about? They want to expand mandatory background checks to any seller who sells even a single firearm, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch; the White House openly says, “There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement.” So if you have a gun and want to sell it to your brother, you’ll now have to take it to a federally licensed firearm dealer to do a background check. Here’s why this matters, as Dana Loesch ably explains:
What anti-Second Amendment advocates mean when they use the rhetorical scam term "loophole" is that they want the federal government to treat every single American as a federal firearms dealer, meaning they would have to establish a national, quasi-registry (current law prevents the federal government from compiling a registry based off of the NICS information) to make it work…
Think of it this way: how in the world would the feds even know if you sold your gun to someone else unless they have a record of you and your guns?
If you don’t comply with this new requirement – if the ATF finds that you sold your gun to a friend without taking it to a FFL, you could go to jail for five years and be fined up to $250,000.
2. Targeting The “Mentally Ill.” The White House proclaims that it wants to “remove the stigma around mental illness and its treatment – and make sure that these individuals and their families know they are not alone.” To do this, the White House wants to enable anyone to take away your Second Amendment rights based on their subjective analysis of your mental state. This would include going after Social Security Administration recipients who have designated a relative to manage their finances. If you missed the vast spate of murders by the elderly using guns, you’re not alone – it doesn’t exist.
Furthermore, the executive orders would remove certain barriers under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to doctors reporting patients’ mental health. According to the White House, “Today, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule expressly permitting certain HIPAA covered entities to provide to the NICS limited demographic and other necessary information about these individuals.” Politico reports that this rule would not allow “disclosure of diagnostic or clinical information,” but the White House has not clarified what exactly “demographic and other necessary information” comprises. It is already law that if you have been involuntarily committed or placed under psychiatric hold, that you not purchase a gun. So unless this provision is totally meaningless, it could be used to dramatically expand doctors reporting patients – a serious problem in a country in which one in ten Americans are on antidepressants.
Wasting Money And Time On “Smart Guns.” There are no magical guns that read fingerprints, activate quickly, and work consistently. They do not exist. If they did exist, I would buy one. But President Obama, in his true “government knows how to invest your money” fashion, thinks throwing money at smart guns will work. The White House wants to “direct the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety.”
Idiotic. More importantly, this merely sets up the false argument that such weapons are available but are being fought by the NRA and other organizations, which is untrue.
In sum, these executive actions could be small potatoes – or President Obama could use them to pry open the door to gun-grabbing. Knowing Obama’s record, the latter seems significantly more likely than the former. But one thing is clear: none of these restrictions would have stopped any recent mass shooting in the United States, and none of them will do anything to stop broader use of guns in violent activities.