Increasing Gun Control by the Federal Government Announced Today: Will Attorney General Eric Holder Decide Who Owns and Holds Guns in Texas?
This morning, President Obama announced that he will sign 23 Executive Orders today, all of which are targeting guns in the United States: specifically, gun control by the federal government of weapons owned by private citizens. Here is the list just announced at the White House press conference of these 23 Executive Orders:
1. “Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.”
2. “Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.”
3. “Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.”
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.”
5. “Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.”
6. “Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. “Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.”
8. “Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).”
9. “Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.”
10. “Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.”
11. “Nominate an ATF director.”
12. “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.”
13. “Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.”
14. “Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”
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.”
16. “Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.”
17. “Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.”
18. “Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”
19. “Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.”
20. “Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.”
21. “Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.”
22. “Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.”
23. “Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.”
Executive Orders Can Create Federal Law Without the Need for Congressional Okay
Presidents are allowed to issue orders, orders akin to orders issued by a judge, that become law. Executive Orders, by definition, impact the Executive Branch and control the operations and scope of those agencies and employees of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Which, of course, includes Eric Holder, as the Attorney General of the United States.
Media reports are already circulating past video of Holder’s position on gun control and the federal constitutional protections of citizens and their right to bear arms. You can read Holder’s perspective on constitutional rights here as well as watch a video of Eric Holder discussing gun rights and gun control online for free.
Suffice to say, Eric Holder appears to be more than ready and willing to change the meaning and impact of the constitutional right to bear arms for all of us. Meantime, there are already discussions in various statehouses about responding to possible actions by Holder based upon these Executive Orders: Texas and Oregon are discussing ways to stop these federal actions announced today.
Is the Constitutional Right to Bear Arms Unlimited? No.
The Bill of Rights includes the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, which states as follows:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Nevertheless, our right to own guns – pistols, rifles, assault weapons, shotguns, revolvers, semi-automatics, whatever – as well as other weapons (knives, Chinese stars, etc.) are not unlimited. Laws exist that control guns and other weapons, and have for many years now. Congress has passed laws regarding guns in the past. State legislatures have passed gun legislation.
Courts have ruled in ways that have limited guns, too. For example, consider the Fifth Circuit decision from 2009, United States v. Bledsoe, 334 Fed. Appx. 771 (5th Cir.2009) where our federal appeals court agreed with a Texas judge to find that a federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6)) does not allow for “straw purchases” of a firearm: it’s not legal to buy a gun for someone who isn’t allowed to own a firearm under the law, for whatever reason (say, someone underage or with a felony record).
Still, the Second Amendment right to bear arms is considered to be powerful and broad in scope. Whether or not today’s Executive Orders – which appear to include an attempt to get doctors to question patients on whether or not they own guns - will not only be controversial and challenged in the public arena but undoubtedly also end up being reviewed in the courts, as today’s Executive Orders are suspiciously adverse to the language found in the Bill of Rights.