The mere mention by Joe Biden that President Obama could strengthen gun-control laws without legislation had the right-wing media yelling “Hitler!” But with the vice-president’s task force wrapping up its quick work, the White House is now detailing just how it would go about using executive orders, eyeing nineteen of them, to be exact, Politico reports. The alternative path recognizes the political difficulties of reinstating the 1994 assault-weapons ban, but shows determination to get something done, with or without Congress. And Republicans are not taking it well.
Biden reportedly met with House Democrats yesterday to outline a way forward, with a formal announcement from Obama on his plan expected later in the week. “It was all focusing on enforcing existing law, administering things like improving the background database, things like that that do not involve a change in the law but enforcing and making sure that the present law is administered as well as possible,” said Representative Bobby Scott of Virginia about the meeting. “I think everybody acknowledges that the assault weapons ban is a challenge, but other things — like the size of the magazines, the background checks, straw purchases — are all things that have a good chance of passing.”
According to Politico, Biden did not mention the NRA’s favorite scapegoat, violent entertainment, or appointing a permanent head to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Democrats briefed, at least, are onboard. “I urged him to do as much by executive order as possible,” said Representative Jackie Speier of California. “Frankly, I don’t have a lot of confidence that this Congress is going to do anything significant.” Obama mentioned the possibility himself in a speech yesterday: “How we are gathering data, for example, on guns that fall into the hands of criminals, and how we track that more effectively — there may be some steps that we can take administratively as opposed through legislation,” he said.
But immediately after, the right started to melt down. Texas Republican Representative Steve Stockman called the possibility of executive action “unconstitutional” and threatened impeachment should Obama “infringe on our constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms.”
“I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment,” said Stockman in a statement. “If the president is allowed to suspend constitutional rights on his own personal whims, our free republic has effectively ceased to exist.” Actually, executive orders are quite common and were used by both George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton on gun control.
Update: The Washington Post reports that Obama “will unveil a sweeping set of new gun-control proposals at midday Wednesday, including an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and limits on the number of bullets in weapons magazines,” along with “a slate of up to 19 separate executive actions that the Obama administration can take on its own to attempt to limit gun violence.” Both lawmakers and gun-control advocates have been invited to the announcement.