Frankly, we should be asking why the administration didn't do this a year ago. I think the reason is obvious: They were afraid it might actually work, thus weakening the case for more gun restrictions. This is something that both gun control AND many gun rights groups have been pushing for. It's one of the few areas of common ground.
First, mental health issues have been at the center of all of the recent mass shootings the gun control advocates has been using to justify more restrictions on sane, law abiding people. If we are going to have background checks, it is in everyone's interest that they actually work. That begins with an accurate database. We have been trying to get an accurate database since Virginia Tech - when the NRA called for an accurate database before gun control groups did. A law was passed, but it still didn't happen, We need to get it done. All mental health commitments and felony convictions should be entered.
The next step is to make sure that when someone acts out in such a way that the average person thinks they may be a danger to others or themselves, that they actually are sent in for evaluation. As quick as CA law enforcement is to 5150 people, how the Gifford's shooter (I will not use his name) had 20+ law enforcement contacts, many for bizarre behavior, and was NEVER be sent in for evaluation is beyond me. If there legal barriers to this, the states should be encouraged to remove them. If he had been, Rep. Gifford's might not have been shot and many others might be alive and unhurt. Remember that a federal disability does not attach until there is a LEGAL commitment. Dues process is required. Given this, I don't have a problem with this action, and in fact, it is probably within the statute and the Constitution.
Going beyond what the administration did today, President Obama could order ATF to both actively enforce the law by arresting those who attempt to buy firearms illegally by lying on the 4473 form AND begin notifying state and local authorities so they can bring state charges or, in many cases, simply violate their parole or probation. It is absolutely absurd that the administration's official policy when a prohibited person attempts to by a firearm is to do nothing beyond simply stopping the sale - leaving them free to buy a gun on the black market. The president could have done this, but he didn't - one wonders why not?
Finally, Congress needs to fund, and the president needs to sign, a bill funding the process for restoration of gun rights contained in the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986. This would enable someone with a commitment or conviction which is many years in the past to petition to have their rights restored. This is simply the right thing to do if we are going to step up enforcement.
I don't trust the president - but that does not mean that everything he does is wrong, or aimed at stripping us of our gun rights.