Obama is announcing his new gun policies right now. I’ll post as I get updates. There are apparently 23 executive orders. I’ve looked over them quickly and I don’t really see anything terribly objectionable. Most of it is strengthening exiting law and the background check system. Here they are, with my commentary. None would have prevented Sandy Hook. But if you’re looking to reduce gun violence overall, they do address that.
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.”
All three of these are reasonable ways of improving the background check system and are orders to federal agencies not requiring new laws.
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.”
As long as any new proposed categories go through Congress, this is fine.
5. “Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.”
Again, as long as we get to see the rule before its implemented. We have, for very good reasons, grandfathered people in on background checks. We don’t want to set a precedent of seizing guns to do a retroactive check.
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.”
All of these are programs within the Justice Department. I would like to see some commentary on the legality of gun traces.
10. “Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.”
11. “Nominate an ATF director.”
We don’t have an ATF director? Seems we should, no?
12. “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.”
I suspect this will be a waste of money, but it seems within the powers of the DOJ providing they have Congressionally-approved funds for this sort of thing.
13. “Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.”
This is more of a goal than an actual policy.
14. “Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”
This may be controversial. Congress has specifically prohibited the CDC from engaging in anti-gun advocacy which has been interpreted to ban all research. Given the Nanny Staters tendency to make loud noises with bogus research (the claim that obesity killed 400k people a year, claims on second-hand smoke), they are right to be suspicious of this. I do think we should clarify what the CDC is and is not allowed to do on this subject.
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 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.”
Words words words. No problem with words. I’m not sure if the ACA does or does not prohibit doctors from asking about guns, so that might be an issue. I believe several states, including Florida, have banned doctors from asking about guns.
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.”
I’m not sure what this means but it sounds like a waste of money. These events are very rare and any preparation for a once in a thousand year event is likely a waste.
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.”
Finalizing ACA regulations would probably be a good idea anyway, no?
23. “Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.”
Ooh, a dialogue! Dialogues solve so many problems.
The executive orders cross me as a non-issue. Almost all of them relate to clarify or writing regulations and soap-box stuff. The only substantive objections might be lodged at 14 (the CDC) and 16 (ACA). I don’t think any of this will help but I don’t think it will hurt. And it’s certainly not the tyrannical gun grab everyone was clamoring about.
The real substances is what he has asked Congress to do. It is, again, largely expected: universal background checks, assault weapons ban, magazine limits and tougher penalties for illegal sales. I suspect, apart from the penalties, most of that is DOA in Congress. But if we could create a system that would allow easy cheap universal background checks, I would be in favor of that. It would not have prevented Sandy Hook. But it might make a dent in the broader issue of gun violence.
Really, this is a non-event. Almost everything was as expected. And it’s largely going nowhere.