Here they are. No doom and gloom. Nothing shocking. Nothing unconstitutional or even controversial. Lots of spending. Little impact. Maybe a couple of zingers in there but hard to tell from a one liner. The devil will be in the details.
Several of the actions relate to mental health. A few that cross over between both areas look sticky. There’s even one that pays lip service to protecting schools. Another one that actually proposes enforcing laws on the books (imagine that). Reading through the list, I’d say that NICS has some serious issues and they know it. It should be abolished, with States running their own background check systems. I’d imagine they’d do a better job themselves considering they have to actually deal with the consequences of a gun in the wrong hands. It’s more of a practical concern than the theoretical one the federal government has.
All in all, the list sounds reasonable doesn’t it? But, when you read the document released last Tuesday from the White House press office embedded at the bottom of this article, you’ll be able to put it all in perspective. In the backgrounder issued to the press, he calls for much more and in greater detail. These are themes that the media will use in writing articles and in crafting questions to ask the President and others.
Granted, as far as Executive Orders go, the President could have taken what I call the “Nuclear” option, which is to cut off the importation of all firearms and parts. I’d say, considering executive orders from previous administrations, that would be well within a President’s power. If he had stopped the importation of all foreign produced weapons and parts, it would have hurt in the short-term, but would have resulted long-term in a much stronger American gun industry and might have resulted in trade wars with nations who produce consumer-based firearms. Notice he didn’t do that and that’s what I find curious. If he is as serious about guns as he sounds, why didn’t he? Even if for just so-called “assault weapons” and parts? That’s the question folks. What is this guy’s play?
There are lots of questions here and so far none of us have the answers. Is he just playing to his base? Did the fear of the consequences (at home and abroad) of such action dissuade him? Does President Obama know that he doesn’t have the votes in Congress to pass the gun legislation he claims he wants? Or is this all just another political chess move to try and put the Republican party on the defensive? If the desired legislation doesn’t materialize, who to blame but Congress? His hands remain clean. If he gets it, it was all his doing. If he doesn’t, well it’s all on Congress now isn’t it? It’s classic.
I went one step further and waited to publish this article until after the inauguration. I have looked at his speech backward and forward. Not once in his address that sets out his vision for the next four years did he use the words “Gun” or “Firearm”. Rather, the President made this statement during his short address, “Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.” He mentioned gay rights before he obliquely mentioned something that his been his administration’s top priority for the past month. Considering how adaptable the single nod to America’s children is, weighed against the empty gestures of the Executive Orders which were accompanied by some rather strong rhetoric, I can only come to the conclusion that President Obama is playing to his base and is expecting Congress to do his dirty work. Like him or not, you have to acknowledge that Barack Obama is a very skilled politician and has become more adept at playing a long game. The fight for the gun rights will be in Congress. Even though the President’s bark is louder than his bite, don’t for a minute think that this is over. It’s as important as ever that you stay engaged with your Congressional representation as well as with other voters.
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.
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.
5. Propose rule-making to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a Department of Justice report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate a new director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
12. Provide law enforcement, first-responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
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.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors from asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school-resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
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 Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan on mental health.
Read this backgrounder from the White House press office released the same day as the announcement. “Embargoing” is used in the media when someone wants you to have it ready to publish but not before they give the OK. Usually, they give you a date and time you can release it.