President Obama was long on platitudes and short on specifics at Tuesday’s emotional gun-control press conference. Perhaps that’s because some of the things he’s proposing have far-reaching ramifications that would appall most Americans, gun-owning or not.
1. Barack Obama plans to use Social Security Administration (SSA) records to deny Second Amendment rights to tens of thousands of seniors. The White House fact sheet says new reporting from the SSA “will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent.” Notice the use of the word “or,” which illegally eliminates the requirement that a citizen be adjudicated mentally ill before the government can deny them a constitutional right.Commonly, veterans with a representative payee have asked for assistance as a matter of convenience due to injuries or other limiting conditions. But the Obama administration has seized on those requests as proof of mental illness, and adds their names to the list of persons prohibited from owning guns.
This is the same policy that the administration has used to justify turning over to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the names of 177,000 U.S. veterans who have named a representative payee to help them manage their affairs. Commonly, veterans with a representative payee have asked for assistance as a matter of convenience due to injuries or other limiting conditions. But the Obama administration has seized on those requests as proof of mental illness, and would add their names to the list of persons prohibited from owning guns. Tens of thousands of seniors can now expect the same treatment as a condition of receiving their benefits.
2. Obama’s vague redefinition of who is “engaged in the business of selling guns” is designed to scare anyone who sells a gun. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) specifies that a person who “devotes time, attention and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms” is required to be licensed. ATF further explains that “if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed.”
However, the Obama administration now warns that you could be convicted “for only one or two transactions,” with penalties up to five years and fines up to $250,000. Already, forums and blogs are lighting up with questions from alarmed hobbyists who are afraid to post a gun for sale. This chilling effect on private sales is certainly not unwelcome in the White House.
3. Obama has a miserable record of prosecuting gun crime. In 2013, federal prosecutors brought just 5,082 cases recommended by ATF, compared with 6,791 in 2008, the year before he took office. That number represents a 42 percent drop from 2004, the record from the Bush years. Obama’s hometown of Chicago leads the U.S. in murder: The Daily Beast reports that the neighborhood of West Garfield Park had a homicide rate higher than that of Honduras, the world leader in murder. Yet, of the 90 federal jurisdictions, Chicago ranks dead last in federal gun prosecutions. And of the 80,000 people who failed a background check in 2013, Obama’s Department of Justice prosecuted just 44 cases. (Vice President Joe Biden told NRA the administration “didn’t have time or manpower to prosecute everyone who lies on a form.”)
4. None of his measures would have stopped any of the recent mass shootings. Let’s take “universal” background checks, Obama’s signature gun-control scheme. The president was finally forced to address the fact—documented in every high-profile mass murder—that they would not have stopped any of the high-profile mass murderers, all of whom either passed a background check or obtained their guns through illegal means. So, he sidestepped: “We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.” This is an argument that would earn an F in any debate class. Oh, and Mr. President, see number 3 above; who is it that’s not trying?5. Obama is deploying more federal agents to enforce gun control than he has deployed to fight ISIS. Obama is looking to add 230 FBI agents to examine the backgrounds of prospective buyers (remember, surveys of convicted criminals prove they don’t submit to background checks when they steal guns). He’s also asking for funding to add another 200 ATF agents (some of whom, presumably, will be checking to see if we’re all engaged in the business).
The Washington Examiner reports that, by comparison, Obama is sending 50 special ops forces to take down ISIS. What are we supposed to think of a president who deploys more agents to monitor law-abiding citizens than to combat an army of radical zealots who behead their captives on TV and yell “Death to America?”
What are we supposed to think of a president who deploys more agents to monitor law-abiding citizens than to combat an army of radical zealots who behead their captives on TV and yell “Death to America?”
6. Obama is directing federal agencies to consider technology that doesn’t work. Under pressure from the Clinton administration, which threatened to use HUD to sue gun manufacturers into either submission or bankruptcy, Smith & Wesson began work on so-called “smart gun” technology, but abandoned it. The state of New Jersey sought to make us adopt such non-existent technology, but none was ever certified by the state. Armatix, a startup German manufacturer, hired a designer from Heckler & Koch to create a high-tech smart gun, but their product was troubled by poor functionality and exorbitant cost, not to mention outright market hostility (brought on by New Jersey’s mandate). Finally, a Silicon Valley fund sought to advance smart gun tech with $1 million in grants to several promising ventures, but a Fast Company article from Jan. 7 indicates that none have fielded a marketable product.
But none of this deterred Obama from directing the departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security to “take two important steps to promote smart gun technology,” Increase R&D, and promote the use and acquisition of new technology. In other words, buy stuff that fails, and as soon as possible. After all, if it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for G.I. Joe, right?
7. Obama has borrowed some of the NRA’s recommendations and called them his own. The NRA has been calling for increasing federal funding for mental health, fixing the underreporting of records by states to NICS and finally, enforcing laws against gun crimes already on the books for years.
Will we ever hear Obama praise the NRA, or come close to admitting that we’ve been right all along? Doubtful, even though he stated, with a straight face, that he wants to “bring good people on both sides of the issue together for an open discussion … I think we can disagree without impugning other people’s motives or without being disagreeable.”
I guess that’s why he exhorted his followers to “stand up to the gun lobby’s lies”; that’s a good way to break the ice.