My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
Previous presidents were rightly relegated to lame duck status in their final year of office as members of Congress begin to look ahead to the next president’s priorities. Fresh off his annual vacation in Hawaii, President Barack Obama has found a way to overcome his lame duck status by simply usurping Congress and unilaterally taking action on his priorities.
After months of study on how to undermine federal law and centuries of constitutional protections, the president is planning to roll out a series of executive actions designed to undermine Americans’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. While Obama has not revealed the specifics yet, anti-Second Amendment zealots close to the administration are saying that he will take executive action to enact regulations on the private sales of firearms and dump more money into enforcement agencies.
Obama is justifying his executive overreach by complaining that Congress has failed to act on gun control in the wake of highly publicized murders committed with firearms over the past few years. There are two things wrong with Obama’s justification. First, Congress did act. In the wake of the killings in Newtown, several gun control bills were offered and, after consideration and debate, Congress said no. What Obama is frustrated by is not that Congress failed to act, but that they did not do what Obama wanted.
The second problem with Obama’s justification for action is that it is no justification at all. Nowhere in our Constitution does it allow the executive branch to make law because the Legislative branch decided not to. In fact, our Constitution intentionally set up a process that requires both houses of the legislative branch and the executive branch to all act to pass a law. That system of checks and balances was designed by our founders to protect the liberties of Americans from the ravages of tyrannical rule. In this case, Obama’s agenda was checked. He did not like it, so he is planning to act unilaterally. Such are the actions of a tyrant.
The main action Obama plans to take is to manipulate rules and legal definitions to require background checks on the private sale of firearms. Obama will spin this action by saying he is “closing the gun-show loophole.” The so-called gun-show loophole is an invention of the anti-Second Amendment zealots to stir up opposition.
There are only three types of firearms sales. The first are sales by licensed firearms dealers. These sales are already heavily regulated and the sellers are required to conduct a background check before releasing the firearm to the buyer. Incidentally, the vast majority of sellers at gun shows are licensed dealers that already conduct background checks — as are online sellers.
The second kind of firearm sales are the illegal ones. Even in private sales, it is illegal for felons and crooks to purchase a firearm for the purpose of committing a crime, but it happens all the time. The vast majority of the crimes committed with guns are committed by a relatively small minority of repeat criminal offenders using firearms that are obtained illegally, possessed illegally, or both. The executive action Obama is planning to make will have absolutely no impact on these kinds of sales.
The third kind of firearm sales are private sales. These sales are anything from the investor who sells the occasional firearm out of her collection to the guy who trades his old shotgun for his neighbor’s snow blower. The law does not require a background check in these sales, but the anti-Second Amendment activists want to change that. The executive actions Obama is planning to make are targeting these kinds of sales with more regulations and cost, even though guns used in crimes are rarely obtained in these kinds of sales.
The reason that anti-Second Amendment folks target private firearm sales for regulation is because it would create a de facto national gun registry. Americans have rightly opposed efforts to create a national gun registry in the past because it is a precursor to all kinds of onerous restrictions, including outright gun confiscation. It is vastly more difficult for the government to confiscate what it does not know people have.
Lest we forget, the founders did not write the Second Amendment into our Constitution to preserve our right to hunt or protect ourselves. The reason for the Second Amendment is written right into the Declaration of Independence: “But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” The Second Amendment is one of those new guards.
In a nutshell, the actions Obama wants to take will not actually do anything to combat the problem of crimes committed with firearms that he cites as the reason for acting. And we have a president who is acting to unilaterally and unconstitutionally restrict the people’s constitutional right that was specifically put in place to protect the people from presidents acting unilaterally and unconstitutionally.
Obama may only have a year left in office, but he can do immeasurable damage to our nation and our liberties in that time that will take years to undo — if ever.