Yesterday President Obama announced a list of modest but important executive orders to address gun violence. Of course the wingnuts went wingnutty…. (More)

“A heartbreaking toll on too many communities”

The president opened his announcement by explaining why action is necessary:

Gun violence has taken a heartbreaking toll on too many communities across the country. Over the past decade in America, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence – and millions more have been the victim of assaults, robberies, and other crimes involving a gun. Many of these crimes were committed by people who never should have been able to purchase a gun in the first place. Over the same period, hundreds of thousands of other people in our communities committed suicide with a gun and nearly half a million people suffered other gun injuries. Hundreds of law enforcement officers have been shot to death protecting their communities. And too many children are killed or injured by firearms every year, often by accident. The vast majority of Americans – including the vast majority of gun owners – believe we must take sensible steps to address these horrible tragedies.

Despite the urgency of the danger, President Obama recognized the limits of his constitutional authority, and the reforms he ordered are quite modest:

  • More and Better Background Checks – The order will clarify definitions to apply existing federal background check laws to all commercial dealers, including online and gun show sellers whose primary business is selling guns. It also closes a loophole that currently allows trusts, corporations, and other such entities to buy even machineguns and sawed-off shotguns without any checks. Attorney General Lynch will ask states to supply more complete criminal histories for background checks, and the FBI will overhaul the system and hire new examiners make checks more efficient and available 24/7.
  • Better Enforcement of Current Gun Laws – The order authorizes 200 new ATF agents to investigate and enforce violations of current gun laws, requires dealers to notify the ATF if gun shipments are lost or stolen, and urges U.S. Attorneys to expand outreach on domestic violence.
  • Expanded Mental Health Treatment and Reporting – The order proposes $500 million for mental health care, and will streamline reporting of mental illnesses that should disqualify gun ownership.
  • Fund Research of Gun Safety Technology – The order will fund research into ‘smart guns’ that fire only for a registered owner, and other technology to improve gun safety.

All in all, very modest indeed. So of course wingnuts went wingnutty….

“While we don’t yet know the details of the plan”

For example, here is Speaker Paul Ryan’s response:

Ever since he was a candidate, President Obama’s dismissiveness toward Americans who value the Second Amendment has been well-documented. He acts as if the right to bear arms is something to be tolerated, when in truth – as the Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2008 – it is fundamental. The same goes for the Constitution and its limits on executive power.

We all are pained by the recent atrocities in our country, but no change the president is reportedly considering would have prevented them. We have seen consistently that an underlying cause of these attacks has been mental illness, and we should look at ways to address this problem. We should also better enforce the laws we have on the books now to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals. Instead, the president is again targeting law-abiding citizens, intruding further into innocent Americans’ lives. 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.

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. 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.

I’m surprised Speaker Ryan waited until the third paragraph to admit he didn’t even bother to read the president’s proposals. But that was obvious, as President Obama’s order addresses precisely the gun safety issues that Speaker Ryan claims should be the focus: more efficient background checks, better enforcement of current laws, better mental health care, better reporting of gun shipment thefts, technology that will keep stolen guns from firing….

Add Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s defiant “Come and take it” screed and former Rep. Joe Walsh howling “It’s war. Defy his executive actions. Time for Civil disobedience” and you might reasonably conclude that Republicans want more gun shipments hijacked and more mentally ill mass shooters.

“Opponents of these new executive actions should take them to court”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent says wingnuts should challenge the president through the courts:

So opponents of these new executive actions should take them to court.

It might actually be valuable if foes did try to get Obama’s executive actions on guns overturned. Here’s one reason why: The end result could be a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of background checks, a topic upon which the Court has not yet ruled. And that could be “clarifying,” in the words of one expert I spoke with today, for purposes of a debate that may well continue for years.

He makes a good point. If Republicans really think the Constitution is on their side, they should present that case to judges. Of course, that would mean living with the outcome if the courts decide these modest reforms are wholly within the president’s authority to execute existing laws.

But this really isn’t about the Constitution. It’s about Republicans’ slavish devotion to a gun lobby who thinks the Oath of Allegiance should conclude “… one nation, under siege, with guns and ammo for all.”

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Photo Credit: Reuters

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Good day and good nuts