I want to thank President Obama for his commitment and his passion in his long-standing attempts to reduce firearms violence and death in the United States. After lobbying Congress throughout his presidency to pass common sense gun regulations, and finding consistent confrontation, inaction, and intransigence on the part of legislators, Mr. Obama announced that he will issue Executive Orders to expand background checks for certain buyers of firearms.

Obama Announcing New Gun Control MeasuresThe Orders mandate individuals “in the business of selling firearms” to register as licensed gun dealers. This will close the so-called “gun show loophole” that has previously exempted gun hobbyists and collectors from maintaining official sales records. In addition, the Orders will increase funding for enforcement by hiring 200 new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agents and investigators, and $4 million to track illegal online firearms trafficking.

The President is, however, realistic that the initiatives will not by themselves solve the epidemic plaguing our nation. Speaking at a press conference on January 5, 2016, he conceded:

“We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.”

For this reason, he continued to challenge national legislators: “But we also can’t wait,” Obama added. “Until we have the Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives.”

The reaction from Republican leaders was swift and predictable. House Speaker Paul Ryan expected that the president’s Executive Order “will no doubt be challenged in the courts” and “can be overturned by a Republican President.”Most current Republican presidential candidates came out shooting through their mouths. For example, Chris Christie called Obama a “petulant child,” and continued: “This president wants to act as if he is a king, as if he is a dictator. [If the courts don't overturn his actions], I’m sure that ultimately the next president will make sure that he abdicates those extra constitutional actions.”

According to Donald Trump: “I will veto, I will unsign that so fast. So fast.”

Ted Cruz called Obama’s initiatives an “abuse” of executive power, and he vowed to repeal them when he is president. Rubio also said he would repeal the orders if elected to the presidency.

Carly Fiorina seemed to enter the stratosphere in her reply: “It is delusional, dangerous, not to mention unconstitutional for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to continue to talk about climate change and gun control in the wake of a Paris terrorist attack, a San Bernardino terrorist attack, instead of talking about a plan to defeat [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].”

Jeb exclamation mark Bush said: “I will fight as hard as I can against any effort by this president, or by any liberal that wants to take away people’s rights that are embedded in the Bill of Rights, embedded in our Constitution.”

Well, to those who talk about the Constitution and firearms rights, I would remind them of a number of issues, the first being that Mr. Obama, being a Constitutional scholar, understands full well the legal implications of his actions.

It never fails to amaze me, though, how some people spout the second clause of the Second Amendment, which reads: “…the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” while forgetting or discounting a key term in the first clause, “well regulated.”

No right granted in our founding documents — neither in the Declaration of Independence nor in our Constitution — and no matter how groundbreaking and progressive are these documents, they do not grant unfettered or limitless rights. Take for example one of the rights addressed in the First Amendment: the “freedom of speech.”

Since its inclusion into the Constitution, legislators and the courts have defined the parameters of this right.

The Supreme Court, for example, has ruled certain speech unconstitutional when it is “directed to inciting or producing…imminent lawless action” and is “likely to incite or produce such action.” The Court also ruled on the limits of perpetrating false statements when it defames an individual or individuals. We also have limits on what the courts define as obscenity, specifically that which lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”: the so-called Three Pronged Miller (Miller v. California) Test. The Courts have also placed severe restrictions (New York v. Ferber) on the production, distribution, and purchase of material deemed as “child pornography,” even though some people have argued that this material should be protected under the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause.

The Supreme Court ruled in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire as unconstitutional the use of “fighting words,” which it defined as speech that “tend[s] to incite an immediate breach of the peace” by provoking a fight, so long as it is a “personally abusive [word] which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, is, as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction.”

The Courts have also made it illegal to use other people words and present them as one’s own. In Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises the Supreme Court has further validated copyright and trademark laws protecting individuals and companies of their “intellectual property.” In addition, the Courts have ruled against companies for “false advertising” of their products.

 

Executive Orders

To date, Mr. Obama has issued 227 Executive Orders, or an average of 33 per each of his years in office. By comparison, George W. Bush issued 291 Orders (36 per year), Ronald Reagan issued 381 (48 per year), and Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an enormous 484 (81 per year). Though they received some push back, where were the large-scale cries criticizing King George, King Ronnie, and King Ike? Where were the loud and bombastic calls for judicial actions to reverse these orders? Where were the accusations of unconstitutionality and abuse of executive powers in the release of their Executive Orders?

President Obama, in releasing his Executive Orders on firearms, provides a meager and restrained response to the explosive perennial problem of gun-related violence consuming our communities. The President, however, is acting within the tight constraints of our Constitution to do what he can before he leaves office next year to deal with what he has decreed as the most vexing problem of his presidency. Congress must now take the next step in passing common sense legislation.

As we all know, however, in the current political climate, the chances for comprehensive common sense gun safety in the United States is only a pipe dream as long as the National Rifle Association controls Congress and state legislatures in the service of firearms manufacturers, for if they did not, we would have seen effective laws passed years ago resulting in countless lives saved.


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