Before that happens, they'll have to take our guns. Speaking of which, Obama just signed off on a bunch of executive orders that he claims will reduce gun violence – although upon cursory inspection, it's obvious that they will do no such thing…but they might create opportunities for the government to limit our 2nd Amendment rights. Four! More! Years!
The story so far…
Obama with his closest gun policy advisers (AP photo)
In his second inaugural address earlier this week, Obama puked out the usual tedious platitudes that have become second nature during the campaign he is eternally engaged in. Toward the end, he obliquely referred to his gun control designs while discussing the various objectives of "our journey":
Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.
"Always" is a pretty tall order. Visions of utopia have been used to justify all manner of disastrous government policy. Mix that with "for the children" and a dash of "if it just saves one life" and you have the perfect recipe for bad legislation.
Last week, surrounded by children – who are by definition immature and unsophisticated, and thus the perfect audience for this president's infantile policy recommendations – Obama signed off on 23 executive orders meant to "reduce gun violence." These orders are mostly just insulting to our intelligence, but a few of them have civil liberties implications. Here are a few highlights with pithy analysis:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
When gun controllers talk about how they need more data, it always raises concerns about registration and eventual confiscation. I know gun controllers think these fears are unfounded – but when you've got news organizations publishing interactive maps of legal gun owners, I think you can argue those fears are pretty damn well founded.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
Will this practice have a disproportionate racial impact?
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
What if law enforcement seize a gun improperly? You're going to make someone sit around and wait for a background check when they might not have done anything wrong? Will this practice have a disproportionate racial impact?
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
If there's something wrong with gun locks and safes, the free market will take care of it.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
Will this practice have a disproportionate racial impact?
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
As if we needed further evidence that Obama is clueless about guns. People who know anything about guns know that they are plenty safe.
That's all well and good, but how is any of this stuff supposed to have stopped any of the recent mass shootings? I guess if Adam Lanza's mother had a better gun safe it would prevented his insane massacre of schoolchildren?
As our reelected president begins his second term, it's not hard to image he'll spend some political capital on encouraging Congress to pass some "common sense" gun control measures. Based on this recently created page at WhiteHouse.gov, it does appear that Obama is only warming up. But if you read the main points of "The President's Plan to Reduce Gun Violence," it doesn't take a genius to see that these proposals would not have stopped any recent mass shooting, and they won't stop the next one.
Here's an ain't-no-genius analysis of some of the president's "common sense" proposals.
"Require background checks for all gun sales: Studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement…Congress should pass legislation that goes beyond closing the "gun show loophole" to require background checks for all firearm sales, with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes."
That 40% figure is based on data from 1994. But as long as we're using old data, the same survey showed that less than 5% of gun sales happened at gun shows, so it doesn't seem that closing the loophole would have much of an effect.
The Wikipedia page on gun shows in the U.S. refers to data from 1997 that found that more than one-third of prison inmates reported obtaining guns from a family member or friend." That would seem to defeat the "common-sense" exception Obama wants to make for family members and friends. I thought the point here was to prevent mass shootings. (If anyone has links to more recent data, feel free to email me.)
"Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds: The case for prohibiting high-capacity magazines has been proven over and over; the shooters at Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown all used magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which would have been prohibited under the 1994 law."
As Reason's Jacob Sullum has pointed out, "The gunman in Connecticut, for example, reportedly fired about 150 rounds, so he must have switched his 30-round magazines at least four times." Changing magazines only takes a few seconds. Limiting mass shooters to 10-round magazines might inconvenience them I suppose. Or encourage them to use explosives.
In any case, it's unlikely that a ban on magazines with higher capacities would be constitutional. Unbeknownst to people like Obama who know nothing about guns, the most popular firearms in the U.S. have magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, which make them "in common use for lawful purposes" by the Supreme Court's standard. And even if you could ban those magazines, you couldn't confiscate all the ones that currently exist – which may be as many as 40 million. And you couldn't stop folks from fabricating new ones.
"Pass a new, stronger ban on assault weapons: The shooters in Aurora and Newtown used the type of semiautomatic rifles that were the target of the assault weapons ban that was in place from 1994 to 2004. That ban was an important step, but manufacturers were able to circumvent the prohibition with cosmetic modifications to their weapons."
You caught that wording, right? "The target of the assault weapons ban." Why didn't Obama say "would have been banned"? Because the guns used in those shootings would have been completely legal under the expired federal assault weapons ban. What bullshit.
Also, another way of saying "circumvent the prohibition" is "complying with the law." The federal assault weapons ban only applied to cosmetic characteristics of weapons. Gun manufacturers followed the law and made guns differently. How can you reason with someone who thinks that behaving legally still isn't good enough?
"Finish the job of getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets: It is already illegal to manufacture and import armor-piercing ammunition except for military or law enforcement use. But it is generally still not illegal to possess or transfer this dangerous ammunition."
If armor-piercing ammunition has been used in any of the recent mass shootings, it hasn't been indicated in any news reports. And as Obama points out, it's already illegal. How is law enforcement going to find out who is possessing or transferring armor-piercing bullets? However they decide to go about that…will it have disproportionate racial impact?
If Obama's proposals are acted upon, they will create opportunities for the government to limit people's rights, while doing nothing to reduce the possibility of mass shootings. We've got four more years of this crap to look forward to. It could be a great time for gun sellers, at least in the short term. Long term, it might not be that great for civil liberties.