Although President Obama isn't scheduled to announce his executive actions on guns until 11:40 a.m. this morning, we already know two things about these actions: (1.) they won't do much to reduce actual gun violence, and (2.) with them, the president will again subvert the Congress.
"While we don't yet know the details of the plan, the President is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will," Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement yesterday. "His proposals to restrict gun rights were debated by the United States Senate, and they were rejected. No President should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally.
"The American people deserve a president who will respect their constitutional rights – all of them. This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it."
Significantly, Ryan does not say that Congress will not stand for it. It is the rights of Congress that the president has usurped with this and so many other actions. But Congress stands for it. In fairness, there may not be a practical remedy for this kind of executive overreach. That is why the character of the executive is a matter of such paramount importance.
President Obama is expected to expand background checks for private sales, which is likely to have no effect of gun violence. Law-abiding citizens buying and selling guns, the people who already obey the rules and will obey what is laid down in these executive actions, will have more red tape. That's about the size of it. I suspect, however, that since progressives regard gun possession by anyone as bad taste, this will please then. A gun is a gun, whether in the hands of a legal duck hunter or a gang banger.
The Free Beacon reports that the executive actions may require somebody who is selling even one gun to obtain a federal license to do so. As the Beacon reported, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was alarmingly vague on this yesterday in a call with reporters. “Numbers are relevant. The ATF and DOJ did not identify a magic number of weapons that makes you engaged in the business because that would limit their ability to bring prosecution.” (My bolding.)
Ms. Jarrett added that selling as few as “two firearms” could mean that a federal license was necessary. require somebody to obtain a federal firearms license. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said later in the call, “It can be as few as one or two depending upon the circumstances under which the person sells the gun." Just what we need–a vague regulation that allows federal employees to interpret it as they please.
And of course there is the futility of the regulation: a scrupulous parent will play by the rules, dutifully obtaining a license to sell two family firearms to a son or daughter. But can you imagine a gang member carefully applying for a license to transfer the family arsenal to a new generation?
It is likely that the executive actions announced today will be nothing more than tweaks. I was interested in National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke:'s comments:
Has Obama lost his mind? This is a man, remember, who is supposed to be admirably dispassionate; a man who is supposed to understand how the game is played; a man who is supposed to reflexively refuse to be taken in by the emotion of the moment.
And yet he’s going to use a good deal of his last year’s political capital in order to tweak a few minor rules around the edges? Why? Even if we’re generous and presume that every single one of these regulations finds its way permanently into the law, he will nevertheless have done nothing substantial to further “universal background checks”; he will have instituted none of his coveted magazine limits; and he will have banned none of the weapons that he disdains. Further, he will have set no meaningful precedents whatsoever.
In other words: Even if he wins this round, he will have done precisely nothing of merit — except perhaps to have pleased his base and to have convinced the most ignorant parts of the electorate that he has finally stuck his finger into the NRA’s eye.
But convincing his base that he is sticking his finger into the NRA's eye is a pretty big deal for President Obama.
And then there is the distraction factor: Speaker Ryan put his finger on this in his statement:
"At a time when the country wants the president to lead the fight against radical Islamic terror, this is yet another attempt to divide and distract from his failed policies," Ryan said.
And it is typical of President Obama that he takes us into this last year of his presidency with a divisive, distracting act. Donald Trump may be the chaos candidate, but this has been the chaos presidency. This is the perfect way to begin a year of chaos.