President Obama is expected to meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch this week to discuss new proposed actions on gun control. According to several news reports, it is expected that Obama will enact the new executive actions soon. Believe it or not, that last sentence may be good news, but only because executive actions do not carry the weight of executive orders.
Of course, the best news would be no news at all. I had the keyboard all warmed up and my reporter’s notepad ready when Obama held his end of the year news conference. The press conference ended and there was no mention of new actions on gun control. That gave me a glimmer of hope, but it seems Obama was just in a hurry to get to his vacation. With the vacation over, new executive actions on gun control look to be at the top of the agenda, but what is an executive action?
Executive Actions Versus Executive Orders
A good way to think of executive actions is a wish list of policies the president would like to see enacted. Essentially, an executive action is an informal proposal or move by the president. however, the term executive action itself is vague and can be used to describe almost anything the president calls on Congress or his administration to do.
However, most executive actions carry zero weight in court. Those that do actually set policy can be invalidated by the courts or undone by legislation passed by Congress. Fortunately, we currently have a Congress that is friendly to the Second Amendment, and given that this is an election year, few are likely to risk the ire of the Second Amendment voters.
On the other hand, executive orders are legally binding and published in the Federal Register. The courts and Congress can also reverse executive orders, which make the coming elections critical to undoing any action Obama may attempt in the coming days or weeks. So in the case of gun control, executive actions are better than executive orders, although neither is a great option of course.
So, what is the current threat? Likely low, but I hate to give anyone the impression they can become complacent. However, we can look a back a few years for an informed comparison.
Heading into his second term, Obama made headlines going into in his second term by issuing nearly two dozen executive actions designed to prevent gun violence in the United States as one of his primary agenda items. Obviously, we have not lost our Second Amendment rights since then. In fact, few probably remember the executive actions at all; even less could name a handful of them.
For those who are curious, the previous executive actions ranged from universal background checks (what they like to call the gun show loophole) to another assault weapons ban to cracking down on straw purchases. Last week, The Shooter’s Log reported on a new Assault Weapons Ban that is already before the house, but has little chance of passing.
The devil is always in the details, and I am always concerned until I see the potential ramifications of each detail. As of now, I am apprehensive as a minimum, if not downright terrified. I do not like the president’s sabre rattling, or the fact that he wants to go around the other branches of government with his pen.
However, if he takes the path of past and sticks to nonbinding executive actions, the damage should be minimal, but that remains to be seen.
How much danger do you see in the president’s coming action? Weigh in with your opinions and analysis in the comment section.