President Obama isn’t one of those old-fashioned politicians who worry about insignificant problems like constitutional limits, congressional authority, or the will of the people before pursuing an agenda. As the nation’s first black president, he is instead guided solely by the lure of history. His greatest fear is that his legacy amounts to little more today than it did on the day he was sworn into office. And with only 16 months left in his presidency, he is desperate to leave his mark on the nation.
Gun control, as Obama has stated many times, remains the beast he could not conquer. He tried his damnedest to get something done following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, but his efforts yielded little fruit. Now, with the Roseburg school shooting still fresh in everyone’s mind, administration officials say Obama is thinking about using that old, trusty standby: the executive order.
If the rumors are correct, Obama will attempt to circumvent Congress and impose new background check regulations on private sellers who exceed a certain number of sales per year. This is a proposal he has considered before, but it’s unclear how it would actually change anything in a meaningful way. Even Obama’s own ATF says that such a change would be difficult to enforce.
NRA spokesperson Jennifer Baker says the idea is absurd. “People who repeatedly sell large volumes of firearms are already covered in the current statute because they are already defined as ‘engaged in the business,’ ” she said.
Obama’s executive order would put a definable number on what separates a low-volume gun dealer from a high-volume one, but even gun control supporters have their doubts about how effective such a law would be. Would even one mass shooting be avoided with this kind of legislation? Would even one gun death be prevented?
As disturbing as it is to see Obama once again ponder the ways he can get around the Constitution, this mild plan hardly seems congruent with his tough talk on the day of the shooting. “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings,” Obama said from the White House. “Friends of ours, allies of ours — Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it.”
Yes, but those countries didn’t expand background checks to include high-volume private dealers. They enacted sweeping gun bans accompanied by mass confiscation. So if that’s what it would really take to make America safe from gun violence, why is the president busying himself with such a minor loophole in the law? This is like taking a shorter shower because you think you’re doing something to fight global warming.
Obama realizes, of course, that this is something that has to be done in drips and drabs. You start with the so-called “common sense” legislation, and you gradually push the country towards the ultimate goal: a gun-free America. Even as blinded by the spotlight of history as he is, Obama recognizes that he can’t get that done in 16 months. But if he can start us on the path, historians may just give him the credit when the Second Amendment finally falls.
That’s great for Obama, but it should be a wake-up call for the rest of us. Gun control legislation – mild, modest, or extreme – chips away at one of our fundamental freedoms. Mainstream Democrats are never going to call for confiscation. They are going to do it one small step at a time, easing the country into the idea that the Founding Fathers got it wrong. That’s why we must stand against any legislation, no matter how insignificant. It all leads to the same place.