President Obama's recent executive orders addressing gun violence have kicked up a lot of dust. Those hopeful for more meaningful measures to restrict guns will likely be disappointed, while those who are convinced that Obama is after their guns are no doubt feeling their fears confirmed.
Let's have a look at exactly what the executive orders spell out:
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 rulemaking 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 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (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 an ATF director.
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 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 asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to healthcare 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 Affordable Care Act exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental-health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
So what do these 23 orders entail?
They all appear to be directives to various federal agencies, which is the proper and legitimate use of presidential executive authority. Just as in corporations, the CEO often directs subordinates via memos.
There is nothing hinting at unconstitutional usurpation of power, such as would be the case if the president were to bypass congress and attempt to enact new laws on his own. Many of the orders involve tweaking procedures for gun purchase background checks. Others seek to clarify standards on safety, or emergency procedures. Some appear to be silly and of little use other than to say "we are doing something about gun violence. Doctors are "not prohibited" from asking patients about guns at home? Please. If that's the biggest threat to the gun lobby, they can all take a collective sigh of relief. "Yeah, Doc, I got an AR-15 in the closet and a Glock under the bed. Any pills for that?"
#22 sounds cryptic - what the hell are "mental health parity regulations", and what type of "dialog" on mental health is being proposed in #23? I suppose it would be naive for me to think they might be reviewing the tragic role that psychoactive prescription drugs play in gun violence. No, that would make too much sense, and threaten billions in Big Pharma profits.
#14 is really ludicrous - ask the CDC to investigate the causes of gun violence? If any lab coat-wearing professional ever unravels the age-old question of what causes violent behavior between humans, it would mean Nobel Prize big time. Not likely to result from presidential executive order, however. He can direct them to find a cure for cancer while he's at it.
So, the gun lobby fanatics can rest easy. Obama isn't coming for your guns, and couldn't do it through executive order even if he wanted. Passing even a modest assault weapons ban through congress looks doubtful at the moment, and soon the headlines will turn back to the critical budget negotiations. Although the haters still think Obama is planning a Communist takeover, he certainly would need to muster something more convincing than these 23 executive orders.