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.

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Members have made 99 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive

    Begging your pardon, Prof. Yoo, but…

    “There are sensible regulations of gun ownership — which don’t violate the right to bear arms — that conservatives should support”

    Could you cite two or three that aren’t already on the books? (e.g., banning machine guns, NICS background checks, etc.)

    Because I really can’t think of one that I would or should support, but willing to see what examples and policy proposals you could come up with.

    • #1
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:26 am
  2. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    TheSophist: Begging your pardon, Prof. Yoo, but…

    “There are sensible regulations of gun ownership — which don’t violate the right to bear arms — that conservatives should support”

    Could you cite two or three that aren’t already on the books? (e.g., banning machine guns, NICS background checks, etc.)

    Because I really can’t think of one that I would or should support, but willing to see what examples and policy proposals you could come up with. · 3 minutes ago

    Strengthening background checks, for one.

    • #2
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:36 am
  3. Profile photo of Antipodius Member

    Never let a crisis go to waste. There is all to gain here. Perhaps a foothold into actually controlling firearms can be gained… and if not- it distracts us all from the deficit monster. Color me cynical.

    • #3
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:53 am
  4. Profile photo of KC Mulville Member

    As far as I can tell, the recommendations are mostly that the people who are responsible for carrying out the existing law are really going to have to do a better job. 

    Now if we could only get that branch of government to get off its duff, stop playing politics, and do their jobs …

    oh… yeah … right …

    • #4
    • January 16, 2013 at 3:53 am
  5. Profile photo of Full Size Tabby Member

    Uh . . . What section of the Constitution provides either Congress or the President with the authority to engaging in what really is local law enforcement (other than the stretched-beyond-recognition Commerce Clause)?

    • #5
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:16 am
  6. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    No thanks.

    • #6
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:46 am
  7. Profile photo of John Yoo Contributor
    John Yoo Post author

    I don’t mind more extensive background checks that include mental illness. Indeed, I would be tempted to propose that anyone with a serious history of mental illness be barred from purchasing a firearm. A court could make the determination if the individual wishes to contest an initial finding by a medical doctor.

    • #7
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:47 am
  8. Profile photo of CoolHand Inactive
    Joseph Eagar

    Strengthening background checks, for one.

    How? Be specific.

    • #8
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:53 am
  9. Profile photo of Jimmy Carter Member

    Hay, Full Size Tabby, check the “penumbras” and “emanations.”

    • #9
    • January 16, 2013 at 4:59 am
  10. Profile photo of DocJay Member
    John Yoo: I don’t mind more extensive background checks that include mental illness. Indeed, I would be tempted to propose that anyone with a serious history of mental illness be barred from purchasing a firearm. A court could make the determination if the individual wishes to contest an initial finding by a medical doctor. · 14 minutes ago

    I am curious, John, if you consider the president as tricky and evil as I do. I don’t want crazy people armed either.

    • #10
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:03 am
  11. Profile photo of Skyler Member

    The mental illness category frightens me. It is all too easy for the government to toss that label on anyone and make it stick. Observe how many people get labeled with PTSD or ADHD, for example. These are real problems but I can’t help but think they are over diagnosed to make parents’ and teachers’ jobs easier or get more lucrative veterans’ benefits. Mental illness has long been a favorite of oppressors to use to remove disfavored people to the gulag.

    • #11
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:05 am
  12. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    Joseph Eagar
    TheSophist: Begging your pardon, Prof. Yoo, but…

    “There are sensible regulations of gun ownership — which don’t violate the right to bear arms — that conservatives should support”

    Could you cite two or three that aren’t already on the books? (e.g., banning machine guns, NICS background checks, etc.)

    Because I really can’t think of one that I would or should support, but willing to see what examples and policy proposals you could come up with. · 3 minutes ago

    Strengthening background checks, for one. · 1 hour ago

    Edited 1 hour ago

    What exactly would you like to “strengthen”?

    Here’s the current NICS background check regulations, for reference.

    • #12
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:07 am
  13. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    CoolHand
    Joseph Eagar

    Strengthening background checks, for one.

    How? Be specific. · 12 minutes ago

    Force the different government bureaucracies to share data, for one. That’s one of the proposals, and I think it’s one that makes sense.

    • #13
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:07 am
  14. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    John Yoo: I don’t mind more extensive background checks that include mental illness. Indeed, I would be tempted to propose that anyone with a serious history of mental illness be barred from purchasing a firearm. A court could make the determination if the individual wishes to contest an initial finding by a medical doctor. · 19 minutes ago

    So obviously, the trick is defining “mental illness” sufficient to disqualify an otherwise law-abiding citizen from gun ownership. If I tell my psychologist that I’m feeling kind of depressed because of XYZ, does that mean I get a knock on the door from the police to take my guns away? 

    Saying a court could make the determination is wholly unacceptable, if the person being deprived of a constitutional right of self-defense is forced to pay the legal fees to do so.

    Given the history of governments abusing “mental illness” for illegitimate means, I’m fairly nervous about this idea, I admit.

    • #14
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:14 am
  15. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    Joseph Eagar
    CoolHand
    Joseph Eagar

    Strengthening background checks, for one.

    How? Be specific. · 12 minutes ago

    Force the different government bureaucracies to share data, for one. That’s one of the proposals, and I think it’s one that makes sense. · 6 minutes ago

    Not seeing the connection between government bureaus sharing information and “stronger” background checks. Could you clarify and make the connection?

    Again, I think it would be useful to know what in the current NICS system you think is “weak” and needs to be strengthened.

    • #15
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:16 am
  16. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member

    What do you think law can accomplish which non-legal actions cannot? Sharing more information with the national government? How about family and neighbors paying attention to each other?

    Democrats demand action, and you feel compelled to compromise with a “small” concession. But there will be another concession next year.

    John Yoo: I don’t mind more extensive background checks that include mental illness. ….

    A specific mental illness, perhaps. Alterations and additions of such definitions should not be left to a President, regulators or committees; only to full Congress. Other countries have been down that road before.

    • #16
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:19 am
  17. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    TheSophist

    So obviously, the trick is defining “mental illness” sufficient to disqualify an otherwise law-abiding citizen from gun ownership. If I tell my psychologist that I’m feeling kind of depressed because of XYZ, does that mean I get a knock on the door from the police to take my guns away? 

    Saying a court could make the determination is wholly unacceptable, if the person being deprived of a constitutional right of self-defense is forced to pay the legal fees to do so.

    Given the history of governments abusing “mental illness” for illegitimate means, I’m fairly nervous about this idea, I admit. · 0 minutes ago

    Yet again CoC number three comes to mind. News flash: we’re not the Soviet Union. Background checks are just that: checks. No one is proposing we create a police state to monitor gun owners, and confiscate their guns at the slightest sign of trouble.

    • #17
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:23 am
  18. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    John Yoo: I don’t mind more extensive background checks that include mental illness. Indeed, I would be tempted to propose that anyone with a serious history of mental illness be barred from purchasing a firearm. A court could make the determination if the individual wishes to contest an initial finding by a medical doctor. · 30 minutes ago

    BTW, John, suppose that we could agree on a definition of “mental illness” that should result in the non-criminal citizen in losing a constitutional right.

    Shouldn’t that same mental illness deprive him of every other right? For example, driving. Or airline travel. Or purchasing fertilizer. Or knives.

    Or voting. Or freedom of speech.

    For example, a paranoid schizophrenic shouldn’t be allowed to have guns. That’s true. But he probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive either. Or buy gasoline. Or kitchen knives.

    What mental illness makes you say “No gun for you” but okay to knives and cars?

    • #18
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:23 am
  19. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    TheSophist

    BTW, John, suppose that we could agree on a definition of “mental illness” that should result in the non-criminal citizen in losing a constitutional right.

    Shouldn’t that same mental illness deprive him of every other right? For example, driving. Or airline travel. Or purchasing fertilizer. Or knives.

    Or voting. Or freedom of speech.

    For example, a paranoid schizophrenic shouldn’t be allowed to have guns. That’s true. But he probably shouldn’t be allowed to drive either. Or buy gasoline. Or kitchen knives.

    What mental illness makes you say “No gun for you” but okay to knives and cars? · 0 minutes ago

    That’s not the topic, though. There’s nothing preventing us from restricting access to cars and sharp objects for the insane, but right now we’re talking about restricting their access to guns. They are, after all, insane.

    • #19
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:26 am
  20. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    TheSophist
    Joseph Eagar
    CoolHand
    Joseph Eagar

    Strengthening background checks, for one.

    How? Be specific. · 12 minutes ago

    Force the different government bureaucracies to share data, for one. That’s one of the proposals, and I think it’s one that makes sense. · 6 minutes ago

    Not seeing the connection between government bureaus sharing information and “stronger” background checks. Could you clarify and make the connection?

    Again, I think it would be useful to know what in the current NICS system you think is “weak” and needs to be strengthened. · 12 minutes ago

    There was a Politico article on the topic. The idea is that if, say, someone files a certain type of disability claim (SSI, or another government program), that data should find its way to the agency that does background checks for guns.

    • #20
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:30 am
  21. Profile photo of Aaron Miller Member
    Joseph Eagar

    Yet again CoC number three comes to mind. News flash: we’re not the Soviet Union. Background checks are just that: checks. No one is proposing we create a police state to monitor gun owners, and confiscate their guns at the slightest sign of trouble.

    Was the 2nd Amendment introduced because the Founders detected an imminent threat of tyranny? Or might they have been exercising foresight?

    Should we not do the same?

    • #21
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:32 am
  22. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    Joseph Eagar

    Yet again CoC number three comes to mind. News flash: we’re not the Soviet Union. Background checks are just that: checks. No one is proposing we create a police state to monitor gun owners, and confiscate their guns at the slightest sign of trouble. · 2 minutes ago

    Maybe background checks are “just checks” in your world, but in mine, if the NICS background check comes back and shows that you have a restraining order against you, you don’t get to buy a gun. That check directly impacts one’s constitutional rights.

    BTW, the current NICS has this:

    A person adjudicated mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution or incompetent to handle own affairs, including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial.

    So you want this strengthened, I’d imagine. How?

    PS: Nice to know that pointing out that repressive governments have abused psychiatry is equal to Trilateral Commission conspiracy theories in your book. Will keep that in mind.

    • #22
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:32 am
  23. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    Aaron Miller
    Joseph Eagar

    Yet again CoC number three comes to mind. News flash: we’re not the Soviet Union. Background checks are just that: checks. No one is proposing we create a police state to monitor gun owners, and confiscate their guns at the slightest sign of trouble.

    Was the 2nd Amendment introduced because the Founders detected animminentthreat of tyranny? Or might they have been exercising foresight?

    Should we not do the same? · 1 minute ago

    The 2nd Amendment, quite clearly, is aimed at foreign invaders, not the federal government. There is one time we tried to solve tyrannical governance through the use of guns: the Civil War. More Americans died in that conflict than in World Wars One and Two combined.

    Guns do not prevent tyranny, nor do they correct it. That is the purpose of our democratic republican system of government. Tyranny is prevented by the diligence of the people and the strength of civil society, not the threat of civil war.

    • #23
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:38 am
  24. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    TheSophist

    Maybe background checks are “just checks” in your world, but in mine, if the NICS background check comes back and shows that you have a restraining order against you, you don’t get to buy a gun. That check directly impacts one’s constitutional rights.

    BTW, the current NICS has this:

    A personadjudicated mental defectiveor involuntarily committed to a mental institution orincompetent to handle own affairs,including dispositions to criminal charges of found not guilty by reason of insanity or found incompetent to stand trial.

    So you want this strengthened, I’d imagine. How?

    PS: Nice to know that pointing out that repressive governments have abused psychiatry is equal to Trilateral Commission conspiracy theories in your book. Will keep that in mind. · 5 minutes ago

    We’re not a repressive government. Okay, where to start? First, just because something is written in a law or regulation doesn’t mean it’s enforced. If there is authority to keep guns out of the hands of the insane, it should be used.

    Second, if people want to buy guns, they shouldn’t’ get restraining orders against them. It’s that simple.

    • #24
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:42 am
  25. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    Joseph Eagar

    That’s not the topic, though. There’s nothing preventing us from restricting access to cars and sharp objects for the insane, but right now we’re talking about restricting their access to guns. They are, after all, insane. · 6 minutes ago

    The topic is what sensible regulations should conservatives support. Bless your heart, Joseph, but your declaring it not the topic doesn’t make it so.

    Fact is, restricting access to guns based on insanity is fine in theory. But the issue is going to be how crazy is crazy enough to lose access to firearms. If that bar is too low, then no, sorry, I can’t support it, and I suspect most of the RKBA crowd can’t either.

    Hence, the question: if someone is too insane to own a gun, then isn’t he too insane to be allowed to walk around society? Shouldn’t he be locked up and involuntarily committed? (See, e.g., Sandy Hook shooter, Aurora shooter, VTech shooter, Arizona (Gabby Giffords) shooter.)

    • #25
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:42 am
  26. Profile photo of Jimmy Carter Member

    It doesn’t read “….shall not be infringed; except in cases of ‘mental illness,’ magazines too large, ‘assault rifles…’

    • #26
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:46 am
  27. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    Joseph Eagar

    The 2nd Amendment, quite clearly, is aimed at foreign invaders, not the federal government.

    Let’s just agree to disagree then, since we don’t agree on fundamental facts about the Second Amendment.

    That you are simply and plainly wrong can be taken up in a different thread.

    “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.” – Thomas Jefferson.

    That’s quite clearly aimed at foreign invaders, not the federal government, said no one ever.

    • #27
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:48 am
  28. Profile photo of Joseph Eagar Member
    TheSophist

    The topic is what sensible regulationsshouldconservatives support. Bless your heart, Joseph, but your declaring it not the topic doesn’t make it so.

    Fact is, restricting access to guns based on insanity is fine in theory. But the issue is going to be how crazy is crazy enough to lose access to firearms. If that bar is too low, then no, sorry, I can’t support it, and I suspect most of the RKBA crowd can’t either.

    That’s a paranoid view of the matter. Who says the bar is going to be low to begin with? Why do you think our government is inclined to abuse the psychiatric system like the Soviets did? We conservatives usually complain the government has too much of a hands-off policy when it comes to the insane, don’t we?

    Breaking news: paranoia is not persuasive.

    • #28
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:48 am
  29. Profile photo of TheSophist Inactive
    Joseph Eagar

    We’re not a repressive government. Okay, where to start? First, just because something is written in a law or regulation doesn’t mean it’s enforced. If there is authority to keep guns out of the hands of the insane, it should be used.

    Second, if people want to buy guns, they shouldn’t’ get restraining orders against them. It’s that simple. · 6 minutes ago

    I agree with the second part; that’s already in NICS. What I’m asking is what new regulations should conservatives support, because I’m having trouble thinking of one.

    Even the mental illness one that you and John Yoo are fond of is fraught with peril. And the current NICS has a provision on mental illness.

    So a reasonable request here is what exactly and precisely you and Yoo would want to see modified and “strengthened”.

    • #29
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:52 am
  30. Profile photo of Eeyore Member
    Joseph Eagar The 2nd Amendment, quite clearly, is aimed at foreign invaders, not the federal government.

    Sorry, Joseph, you need a 3 minute Reality Check!

    • #30
    • January 16, 2013 at 5:56 am
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