Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly And The Missing

A Point By Point Analysis Of President Obama's Executive Orders And Recommendations On Gun Violence

Setting aside the issue of the president violating the Constitution by issuing some of these orders, how effective will they be?  Which are good ideas and which aren't?

(Please note that I have placed executive orders that are a “mix” of good and bad in the “good” category.  The numbers are from the White House.)

The Good

Improvements to the Instant Background Check System (NICS):

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.

Items 1 to 3 have been a problem for a long time – and both Brady and the NRA have pointed this out and asked for action.  The real question is why has this not been done before now? 

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.

Not a problem as long as it is just a review.  If Pres. Obama attempts to issue an executive order expanding the kinds of people prohibited from possessing firearms under Federal law, that would violate the separation of powers and clearly be unconstitutional.

5. Propose rule-making to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

Not a bad idea, and probably not even unconstitutional as long as it is not a requirement that local law enforcement run these checks, but is simply limited to giving them the ability to do so.  State or Federal laws would be required to mandate such checks.

A good question is why he does not give federally licensed collectors the ability to run such checks before selling guns from their collections?

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

Again, not a problem, but probably does not accomplish much.   In states that require it, such checks are already being done and the process is fairly simple.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

Nothing wrong with this – in fact the administration can and should partner with the leading gun safety group in the nation – the NRA – to accomplish this.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Readers may be surprised to learn that I am very much in favor of this action.  There are strong indications that the mother of the Connecticut shooter did, in fact, secure her firearms.  (He attempted to buy his own, which would have only been necessary if his mother’s were not available to him.)  It is possible that he defeated the lock or locks.  We need to know what went wrong here and make sure that locking devices and safes really work.

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

This is somewhat puzzling, as this is already being done.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

If the president appoints a non-political reformer to head ATF, this would be a very good thing.  If he does what he has already done twice, appoint an anti-gun zealot to head the agency, that person will not be confirmed by the Senate, just like the last two.  It’s up to President Obama.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

Of course, this is already happening – but this doesn't hurt anything.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

There could be a problem with the “efforts to prevent gun violence”, depending upon what they are.  As for prosecuting gun crime, it’s about time!

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

Since this applies only the “threats of violence”, it is a good thing to let the healthcare community know that they can, under current law, report them.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

This is a very good thing, but any funding would require congressional approval.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

A good idea, but if it is done with an anti-gun bias that fails to recognize the value of armed defense, it will be useless.

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.

Items 20-23 are good, because they address the greatest problem, the broken mental health system.  Read my extensive post on this HERE.

The Bad

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

Again, not a problem, but won’t accomplish much except lay the foundation for future laws to require “immediate reporting” of lost and stolen guns.  Canada has such a law and it has resulted in the prosecution of many gun owners who did not discover that their guns were stolen until some time later.  (i.e. they were on vacation and did not discover the theft until they returned.)

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.

This is a very bad idea.  Why?  Because the idea is to require all guns sold to citizens (not police, of course) to have some kind of digital electronic device that will permit it to be fired only by the owner.

This idea is bad for a ton of reasons, but I will mention only two.  These devices are digital.  Has your computer or “smart phone” ever locked up and required a reboot?  How would you like your guns software to lock up when you have it pointed at an armed intruder?  Guns are also subject to recoil – which is very likely to eventually cause the electronics to fail.  Do you now understand why the cops would never let these devices – that don’t exist yet – be placed on their guns?

Recommendation to Congress: “Assault Weapons” Ban

Why in the world are we focusing upon a weapon used in well under 326 murders or less than 3% of homicides?  This puts all rifles (not just “Assault Rifles”) behind handguns, knives, clubs, shotguns and bare hands as murder weapons of choice.  Anti-gun rights groups simply see banning these guns as “low hanging fruit” because of the term they falsely apply to them males them sound evil and more dangerous than other long guns.  After they ban these and things do not improve, they can come back and ban more guns.  After all, they do not have to even be commonly used in crimes.

Even the biased CDC could not find any positive results from the previous 10 year long ban, and they looked really hard..

Recommendation to Congress: 10 round magazine capacity limit

No one who is trained to use firearms believes that this will make a significant difference.  Magazines can be quickly changed (1-2 seconds), in most cases while a round remains available to be fired.  The real question is, what happens when a 10 round limit doesn’t “work”.  New York State has already shown us what happens.  They just reduced their limit to 7 rounds.  Some in Connecticut are talking about outlawing ALL MAGAZINES, effectively banning all but single shots. 

We don’t have to wonder about the results of such a ban.  The Federal Assault Weapons ban included such a ban.  There was no measurable impact upon crime or mass shootings.  California’s ban, which is still in effect, also has produced zero results. 

Recommendation to Congress: “Universal Background Checks”

Although this is the least offensive of all proposals, there are two problems with it:

1) Gun owners are concerned (with good cause, because it has already happened) that background checks will be used to build a database of gun owners – in spite of a Federal law forbidding it.  Given that the governor of New York (a possible Democratic candidate for president) has called for gun confiscation, it’s easy to understand why gun owners fear such a list.

2) Opposition to this is so strong that the only way it will be passed is if there are exceptions for “family transfers” and the NRA supports it.  The NRA would loose millions of members to groups to their left if they supported such a law without getting something gun owners really want in return.  The only thing I can think of would be nationwide carry permit recognition and nationwide shall issue permitting.  I don’t think gun control groups would back it – but it would be a brilliant move for Obama to propose this.  He would get something that he wants and prove that he really does support responsible gun ownership and use.   Don’t hold your breath.  

The Ugly

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

The CDC is absolutely the wrong agency to study this issue.  This is not a health issue, it is a crime issue.  Why did the president choose them instead of a research organization with more expertise in this area?  Simple: The CDC has a very long standing bias against lawful firearms ownership.  The administration is looking for biased propaganda, not science.

It is worth noting that even the CDC, who really wanted to find differently, was unable to find ANY positive result from the 1994-2004 Assault Weapons ban.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

Why do gun owners oppose doctors doing this?  Simple: Doctors are not trained in gun safety.   They are not competent to draw professional conclusions or to give advice on firearms safety.  Furthermore, they are intentionally misinformed (read LIED TO) by anti-gun rights groups and encouraged to HORANG THEIR PATIENTS.  Think this doesn’t happen?  Reports of this have been out there for decades and it has happened to me, personally.

The Missing

There are also a couple of things that were clearly considered by the president (according to leaks from Vice-President Biden) and were rejected:

The president failed to direct the ATF and Department of Justice to aggressively prosecute criminals who attempt to buy firearms by lying on the Federal Form 4473 – which is a felony.  Currently, a criminal who attempts to buy a firearm and is stopped has a 1 in 300 chance of being prosecuted.  Why didn’t the president do something about this?

The president took absolutely no action in regards to violent movies or video games – in spite of the fact that the Connecticut shooter spent a FULL YEAR playing violent games before the shooting.  Not even a call for these industries to be more responsible.  One would think that Pres. Obama gets a lot of support from this industry…..

Then there are these common sense measures that were not included:

The president failed to addresses the killing fields known as “gun free zones” where 99.5% of mass shootings happen.  Unsecured, phony “gun free zones” are not a solution to gun violence – they are an aggravating factor in it.  Apparently the president has no problem assuring mass shooters that if they choose one of these places to start killing people, no one will be able to shoot back for several minutes until the police arrive.  He holds this position in spite of ample evidence that as soon as the shooter faces armed opposition – from police or an armed citizen – the shooting and dying almost always stops.

The president failed to even consider training and arming selected teachers – a much more cost effective way to provide school security that experiences in Utah and Israel prove it to be both safe and effective.

The president failed to call for Concealed Carry Permit reform to standardize permit requirements across the nation, make permits available to all qualified citizens and make permits valid across state lines.

The president failed to order the development of a model mental health commitment law, providing for both emergency commitments for evaluation and long-term commitments.  Given that a commitment is needed to trigger a firearms prohibition and inclusion in the database, this is critically important.

In short, the president didn’t push as far as we feared he might – likely because he knew he would not get away with it – but he didn't do much that will help either.  The executive orders are weak and the proposals to Congress are essentially dead on arrival, since 52% of senators and representatives have a “A” rating from the NRA.  In my opinion, yet again, our president has missed an opportunity to really lead.


  1. Along with commitment we need better detection and treatment of people (usually in their early 20's) who develop schizophrenia and other type diseases.
    Early diagnosis and treatment would prevent full blown schisms. I would still put paranoid schizophrenics and anti social behavior on a data base list never to own a gun whether they were ever hospitalized or not.

    1. I think we are largely in agreement on this. I do think we are basically on the same page - but I do think that there needs to be due process before someone is deprived of a constitutional right. In the case of current Federal law, a court ordered commitment is required, so due process is observed. If we are going to create a new federal firearms disability, we need to make sure there is some kind of hearing required before the disability applies.

      However, everyone should understand that even with the current standard many people who are forbidden to own firearms are not making it into the database, as are many other prohibited persons - ironically this is something both the NRA and the gun control groups both want to happen.