Firing a Blank on Gun Control

Politico today carries a story about the 19 executive actions that the Obama Administration may consider taking on gun control. If this is all they’ve got, then Joe Biden has fired a blank.

Improving background checks, sharing more information, and conducting more social science research are proposals that conservatives and liberals alike should support. They do not infringe on Second Amendment rights in any significant way; these proposals will have little impact on the ability of Americans to lawfully acquire and possess firearms. The Obama administration may want to create the image of doing something, but they are really doing nothing.

If the reports of this executive order are true, they also reaffirm the basic division of authority between the President and Congress. While I think the President has broad powers to protect the country from foreign threats, Congress has the constitutional lead over domestic policy. If gun control advocates want to seriously reduce the ability of Americans to acquire and possess weapons, they will have to act through Congress — and that is even before the courts get involved to defend the Second Amendment.

There are sensible regulations of gun ownership — which don’t violate the right to bear arms — that conservatives should support, but it would take heavy political lifting to pass them. I predict that President Obama isn’t prepared to push bipartisan legislation through Congress on a controversial subject — he never has — so his proposal will just elevate appearance over substance.