In a year when meaningful gun-control legislation has been all but killed thanks to the defeat of the Manchin-Toomey amendment in April, President Barack Obama is still doing what little he can behind the scenes. In a maneuver that his critics brand as making an end run around Congress, Obama has surreptitiously issued two executive actions or orders to further his liberal objective of tougher gun control. Critics are particularly displeased with executive actions like these because they circumvent the legislative approval of Congress, doing away with checks and balances.
Announced quietly at the very end of August and just before the Labor Day Weekend, the president’s executive actions are meant to deal with gun violence. These additional actions come on the back of 23 earlier ones that were recommended by Vice President Joe Biden.
The two actions break down like this, according to a White House press release:
• The first one will close a loophole to make sure that some of the most hazardous firearms are kept out of the wrong hands.
• The second one will try to keep surplus military weapons off the streets.
The first action is characterized by the requirement of people who are connected to corporations or trusts purchasing “dangerous weapons” to submit to background checks. Today, there are no background checks in place for people who get firearms that have been registered to either a corporation or a trust. The Obama administration defines “dangerous weapons” in this context as both machine guns and short-barreled shotguns.
The second action is characterized by the disallowance of private entities bringing military-grade weapons back into the U.S. Today, private entities can actually import military-grade weapons that were sold to American allies back into America without any approval at all. According to White House numbers provided in its press release, some 250,000 military-grade firearms were reimported into America by private entities since 2005.
While underhanded actions like these will work to mollify to some extent the president’s base of gun-control ideologues, they are predictably provoking conservative critics to point out the flaws in these backdoor issuances.
For one thing, the president’s gun-control strategy—which capitalized on the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting—went down in flames when the Manchin-Toomey amendment died in the Senate in April. These executive orders are a way to still push through a semblance of gun control without the public embarrassment of legislative defeats in the Congress.
Another criticism pointed out by conservatives relates to the issuance on military-grade weapons. Banning the reimport of military-grade weapons could adversely affect esteemed programs such as the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which relies on such heavy-duty weapons to train civilians in proper gun use.
With executive actions like these calculated to “backdoor” gun-control legislation in a very secretive manner, the gun-control debate is not going away anytime soon. Americans on both sides of this combative issue are quite engaged, with polls showing pro-gun Americans being more passionate in activism than gun opponents.