Of all the assaults on the Second Amendment over the last eight years, the most destructive might be the ones perpetrated by Barack Obama’s pen and phone. Though he hasn’t signed more executive orders than other presidents have, he’s used them and other executive actions as a way implement legislation and policy without having to deal with Congress.
Here are a few of the more infamous executive actions that have been issued during Obama’s tenure:
- “Operation Chokepoint,” pressuring financial institutions to stop doing business with companies involved in gun manufacturing and sales
- Prohibition on the import of collectible rifles
- Some VA and Social Security beneficiaries being listed as “mental defectives” and stripped of Second Amendment rights without due process
- Redefining hobbyist gunsmiths as “manufacturers” requiring them to pay exorbitant fees to stay in business
As a result of these executive actions our fundamental rights have been eroded and will continue to be eroded until, we hope, President Donald Trump rescinds these actions and advances the cause of liberty.
Though there isn’t anything in the Constitution authorizing or prohibiting executive orders:
Executive orders arise from “implied constitutional and statutory authority,” the Congressional Research Service reported. “If issued under a valid claim of authority and published in the Federal Register, executive orders may have the force and effect of law.”
But, the Supreme Court has ruled there are limits on what can be done via executive order. When President Truman attempted to stop a steelworkers strike by seizing the steel mills, the companies sued. In the opinion invalidating Truman’s order, Justice Hugo Black wrote:
[A]n executive order (1) “must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself” and (2) an executive order is on dubious ground if it’s “incompatible with the express or implied will of Congress.”
Clearly, his gun-related executive actions are incompatible with the express or implied will of Congress. He said as much himself when announcing his plans.
In early 2013, Obama issued 23 gun-related executive orders, then more later that year, then in January 2016 issued another lengthy list of actions. Because these memos and orders are long and vaguely worded, it’s difficult to always see exactly how they will harm Second Amendment rights.
That’s intentional. Who could be opposed to orders allowing for more training of first responders? Or ensuring “smart and effective enforcement of our gun laws”? Of course, we know that most of the time this type of wording in these proposals are simply the starting point for a scheme to take away rights.
For example, in January 2016 Obama ordered the Department of Justice to study available “smart gun” technology and whether it’s compatible with DOJ firearms specs. His hope was that through the federal government using its purchasing power, smart gun technology would be adopted more rapidly in the marketplace. Once the technology was more widely adopted, it would be easier to create laws requiring manufacturers to use “smart gun” technology. But, instead, millions of dollars were wasted to determine what we already knew - that the technology is too risky for law enforcement (or anyone else) to depend upon.
Some of the orders don’t relate to firearms on their face but, after the bureaucrats have their way with the language, end up with anti-gun provisions. For example, Executive Order 13661 of March 16, 2014, is titled “Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine.” This order was supposed to prevent Russian Federation aggression in the Ukraine, but the Treasury Department created regulations under this delegated authority that banned the importation of popular Kalashnikov rifles.
If a U.S. person is in possession of a Kalashnikov Concern product that was bought and fully paid for prior to the date of designation (i.e., no payment remains due to Kalashnikov Concern), then that product is not blocked and OFAC sanctions would not prohibit the U.S. person from keeping or selling the product in the secondary market, so long as Kalashnikov Concern has no interest in the transaction.
Executive actions aren’t always easily undone by the next occupant of the Oval Office, but we have the next 4 (and maybe 8) years to undue Obama’s anti-gun legacy.
We ask you, Mr. Trump and the Republican majority in Congress, to tear down this wall of anti-rights executive actions!