Frustrated over gun violence throughout the country, and his inability to effect meaningful change in current gun laws, President Obama has indicated his willingness to attack the issue through “executive orders”. Such measures do not require advance Congressional approval, however, like any rule or law, they are subject to judicial scrutiny. As expected, the NRA is opposed to such actions saying that the current laws provide ample protection to the public and would only hamper gun sales and exchanges between lawful citizens. Chicago Tribune columnist, John Kass, recently criticized the use of executive orders saying, “Obama governs the nation via executive order, like some post-constitutional Chicago boss issuing edicts to hapless alderman” (Kass wasn’t talking specifically about gun control in this article).
One of the contemplated executive orders would require anyone who sells more than 50 guns a year to obtain a federal license, subject to approval by the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and to conduct background checks on potential buyers. The rule is designed to tighten the existing law that currently exempts anyone “who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection of firearms”.
We continue to struggle with the passage of laws that would require citizens to undergo background checks when making occasional purchases or sales of guns. Why subject these citizens to this inconvenience that may lead to dangerous results? Take for example, the sale of two or three weapons by a widow who has no use for them; if such laws constrict her from making such sales, she might not bother to go through the process that would lead to the presence of unwanted and unused guns in her home– a potential disaster waiting to happen. We worry that the passage of a law or enactment of a rule that quantifies or equates the number of weapons that can be sold before a license is required invites speculation, waste of resources and unnecessary restrictions. How is a federal agency going to track the people who are selling 50 guns or more? What about the added personnel and cost? There is the added concern of providing such information to the government. What would they do with such sensitive data? Would they use the information for other purposes or unrelated cases? Would the number of weapons eventually be reduced from 50 (that would present the widow example above)? We are currently undergoing a serious examination of the government’s use of confidential information; this is another area for potential abuse of use by the government. We understand the President’s frustration over the many senseless shootings in the country, but executive gun control is not the solution.