On Wednesday, January 16 2013 President Barack Obama released his proposed executive orders to “deal” with gun violence. As I wrote a few weeks ago, most of what gun control advocates propose has little to nothing to do with curbing mass murders such as the school shooting in Connecticut. Those educated on current and past gun control measures will recognize that most of what Obama proposed is either already in place or will have little impact on keeping the mentally ill from shooting innocent children in what is effective a gun-free zone shooting gallery.
On the other hand, there are some good things in Obama’s executive orders.
In order to help the discussion along, I’ve assigned scores to each of Obama’s EOs, with some explanation when necessary.
Executive orders that harm gun rights receive a -1, executive orders that may be effective in helping curb gun violence get a +1, and orders that are duplicates of laws or policies already in place get a 0. Useless orders also get a 0. At the end I’ll derive a percentage score for Obama.
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background-check system. 0 The National Instant Criminal Background Check System already has data necessary to keep criminals from buying guns. It works; I’ve personally denied several people firearms purchases thanks to the NICS. What Obama should have done is given more money to the NICS to increase responsiveness. Most of the time, especially if you have a weird name like mine, the background check takes less than a minute. However, during times of high firearms sales or if you have a common name, the system can take a long time to respond. Right now the NICS allows a firearms dealer to sell a weapon if they don’t get a response in 3 days. After Obama’s re-election and after Biden shot his mouth off about gun control sales went through the roof. Over 2.3 million guns were sold last month, and while I don’t have data on how many of those transactions surpassed the 3 day mark, anything the President could do to help an already effective system become more responsive would be good.
Lastly, I’ve said this many times — the NICS must be made available to private citizens. It is a shame Obama didn’t try to close the supposed “gun show loophole” by demanding that NICS can be used for person-to-person sales.
- 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. +1.
As evidence continues to mount that guns are safely and legally possessed by the incredible majority of gun owners, it’s a good idea to focus on attributes possessed by mass murders. An increasing amount of research shows that mass murders were, or were supposed to be, under the medication of SSRI drugs. If this turns out to have an effect on mass murders using guns, then I support identifying those under SSRI medication at a national level.
- Improve incentives for states to share information with the background- check system. 0
There is no evidence to indicate that the NCIS information is inadequate to keep criminals or those who are under investigation for domestic violence from buying guns.
- 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. +1 or -1, depending on what the definition of “dangerous people.”
Remember, Obama’s the guy who approved the indefinite detention of US citizens without trial. I am skeptical of anyone that he deems qualified to say who is or is not dangerous. On the other hand, if the tie between SSRI medication and violence is shown to be true, then perhaps it would help to add this attribute to the ATF’s Form 4473, which is used when a person buys a firearm from a dealer. The current Form 4473 will disqualify someone if they are illegally using mental health medication or if the applicant has been declared mentally defective or committed for psychiatric assistance. However, if you’re using an anti-depressant under the advice of a doctor but are not so far off to be declared incompetent you can still buy a gun.
- Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun. +1
As the system stands now, you go through a background check if you buy a firearm from a dealer, or if you apply for a concealed carry permit, or sometimes if you apply for an NFA item such as a short barreled rifle depending on how one applies. That’s it. If someone buys a firearm legally a decade ago and is then deemed mentally incompetent they still get to keep their guns. Similarly, if someone legally buys a gun and then is convicted of beating their wife, they may still keep existing guns although they would be barred from buying more guns from a dealer in the future.
I don’t know how much this will curb crime, but I realize there’s a loophole here. So, +1.
- Publish a letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers. 0
This is pointless. Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) that sell guns to the public already know how to do this. They may charge any amount they see fit to do a private transfer; $20 – $35 is the typical range. I know someone who does this when he sells his guns to other private parties — he meets them at an FFL and the FFL does the background check on the behalf of the seller. A better executive order would be to open up the NICS to private parties so we can do this ourselves.
- Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign. 0
The NRA already has a good program on this, and there are several pieces of literature that accompany every new firearm sold. In some states, that paperwork (such as how to handle a gun safely) are required to be passed along in the event of a private sale. This EO does nothing new.
- Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission). -1
There is already a safety standard for gun locks and gun safes, and there is no evidence to support that the standard isn’t good enough to keep guns out of the hands of unauthorized users. If the President wants to make the standard used by states such as Minnesota and California a federal one that’s one thing; but this EO has nothing to do with that. As is, it’s a waste of tax payer time and money.
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations. 0
This is already done. A handgun I sold via private party was used in a crime years later. The ATF contacted me and I showed them a bill of sale, with the suspect’s name, Virginia driver’s license number, and VA CCW permit number. I had since moved to Minnesota, but the process worked.
- Release a Department of Justice report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement. 0
This has nothing to do with stopping the mass murders that supposedly prompted Obama’s executive orders in the first place. Furthermore, what is the value of this? Hey, guess what: there are stolen guns out there. Fucking thanks, DoJ! By the way, where are all those guns the ATF illegally bought and gave to Mexican gun cartels after the selling FFLs attempted to deny the sale?
- Nominate an ATF director. 0
Worthless at curbing gun crime, especially within the context of mass murders committed by the mentally unstable that supposedly sparked this debate in the first place.
- Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations. +1
This is great, and I wish Obama would have also extended this to students and parents. I receive more firearms training annually — as a private citizen and at my own expense — than just about any American law enforcement officer. This is partially due to how many things LEOs have to train for (dealing with the public, going to court, doing paperwork properly, etc), partly because of budget, and partially because many law enforcement officers would rather not carry firearms or practice with them. Anything to help put more dollars into the coffers for training is a good thing. We’ll see how this plays out.
- Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime. 0
What’s the purpose of this executive order? Is Obama trying to say that law enforcement doesn’t give a shit if someone gets killed with a gun, and we need more emphasis on catching criminals? This is dumb.
- Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence. +1
I think this will help answer questions about gun violence on both sides of the gun control debate.
- 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. 0
What does this mean? Every new firearm is sold with a cable lock. Every modern firearm has to have minimal safety measures as it is. “High tech” safety technologies such as the Smart Gun concept have proven to all be unreliable and dangerous. While serving as a law enforcement officer, my current firearm instructor gave his backup pistol to an off-duty officer who was on the scene of an active crime. If technologies used in the “smart gun” camp were deployed this couldn’t have taken place, since smart guns are tied to the owner.
- Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes. -1
This is a pre-crime measure. The heart of it is Obama believes that the presence of a firearm in a home leads to some sort of public health issue. This is factually incorrect. As it is widely documented (including by the CDC), firearms in the home do not increase the overall mortality rate within the home, especially compared to items doctors don’t ask you about, such as alcohol, tobacco, or automobiles. See accidental deaths and compare the per capita result to homicides. Note: falling kills more people than firearms every year, so perhaps we should do a background check on ladders, and question why a ladder needs more than 10 rungs?
- Release a letter to healthcare providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities. +1
I don’t know if there needs to be a letter to do this, but I support anyone reporting threats of violence (or violent behavior) to the authorities, regardless of their profession.
- Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers. +1
Funny — when the NRA suggests armed people in schools everyone laughs and posts about it on HuffPo. However, when Obama does it he’s the messiah. Still, I think removing the barrier for people to defend themselves is good, and increasing the percentage of armed responders in school is also good.
- Develop model emergency-response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education. +1
Even if an institution doesn’t want to accept the model developed by the government, it’s a good starting point. I like the idea of people thinking about being prepared, whether it be financial, environmental, or human-generated disaster. On the other hand, a friend of mine is the director of campus security at a community college, and they already have an emergency response plan. I imagine that just about every school (public or private) in the US, as well as many churches, have an emergency response plan for an active shooter. I know my father’s church in Colorado does.
- Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover. 0
I have no idea if this is something that would be helpful or not.
- Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within Affordable Care Act exchanges. +1
In case you weren’t aware, “parity” in the health care sense means at the same level of coverage and treatment as other medical issues. What this means is that mental health issues must be treated under the same rules by your health insurance as say, cancer or the flu. I think that’s good, but I don’t think it will have any immediate or mid-term impact on gun violence.
- Commit to finalizing mental-health parity regulations. +1
- Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health. 0
I never put much faith in “dialogues,” for example see Vice President Biden’s gun control “dialogue” puppetry last week.
Total +1: 10
Total 0: 11
Total -1: 3
Total percentage of useful executive orders: 42%
I counted one executive order as both a +1 and a -1, depending on its implementation, so that’s why the numbers don’t add up to the number of Obama’s EOs.
Overall, most of Obama’s executive orders have to do with gathering data and making data more available to law enforcement. I think that’s good. I also think that learning more about mental health and making sure people get the mental health care they need are also good things.
However, there are some major blunders in these orders. I have yet to read or hear a good reason why the NICS is not available for private party sales. A lot of the non-health related things Obama proposes are already underway, and at best are “feel good” measures. For example, doing private transfers via an FFL, gun safety information, and firearm / ammunition security statutes already exist.
A lot of my peers in the gun owner community sighed relief when these EOs were announced, but given the punitive and illegal restrictions recently passed by New York we are clearly not out of the woods.
As American citizens we have a duty to let our government officials know how we stand on useless legislation such as an assault weapon ban or magazine capacity restriction.
You may use the NRA-ILA’s Write Your Reps page to find out who represents you.
Here’s the template I use. Even if you wrote your representatives already it doesn’t hurt to do so again.
Hello, my name is [$yourName]. I live in [$yourTown], and I am a registered voter in your district.
I am contacting you today to urge you to NOT support any increased gun control legislation. California Senator Dianne Feinstein may introduce an “assault weapon ban” that will do nothing to prevent incidents such as the mass murder Connecticut by a person who was mentally ill.
Millions of Americans legally and peacefully own hundreds of millions of firearms that Feinstein is about to campaign against. These firearms are lawfully and peacefully used by an incredibly high percentage of Americans. As a public safety and health issue, the assault weapons Feinstein speaks of constitute a more minor risk per capita than motor vehicles, tobacco, alcohol, or prescription drugs.
Please fight against any attempt to further regulate firearms, magazines, clips, or ammunition. The current background check system in [$yourState] prevents almost all firearms from being purchased illegally, and the number of violent offenders who use assault weapons is so low as to be statistically insignificant.
I urge you to decline to support any increased gun control in [$yourState] or at the federal level.