As one observer noted last week, “All the Democrats have for issues are tax hikes and gun control, and since they don’t want to discuss the former, they hit the other one as hard as they can.”
I wanted to throw “climate change” into the mix, but then I realized that the warmists’ Thermageddon is only multiple massive tax hikes hiding under an assumed name, so I have to concur with the statement.
Especially after Tuesday’s performance by President Obama. Opinion is divided on the right about whether his proposals are a grab bag that will have no effect on gun crimes, or whether they amount to a frontal assault on the Second Amendment’s guarantees of the right to own and use firearms.
Of course, his ukases can easily be both. As Rush Limbaugh noted Tuesday, we have finally reached the point where we can stop calling them executive orders and start calling them “fatwas.”
And his firearms fatwa is multifaceted. What it tries to do may be minimal, but what makes it threatening is not its immediate impact but its targets, which are law-abiding gun owners, who can expect this to be the start of yet another campaign to rein in their constitutional rights.
There’s a wide consensus that Obama’s proposals to expand background checks wouldn’t have affected any of the perpetrators of recent large-scale shootings.
For example, as The Associated Press reported Tuesday, “Obama’s executive action expands mandatory background checks to gun shows, flea markets and online sales, adds more than 230 examiners and staff to help process them and calls on states to submit accurate and updated criminal history data.”
But the AP concludes, “Those measures … would have had no impact in keeping weapons from the hands of suspects in several of the deadliest recent mass shootings that have spurred calls for tighter gun control.”
That’s true enough, but the AP’s shorthand – and Obama’s – conveys a false version of reality: First, people selling guns at gun shows are almost exclusively licensed dealers, and the few who aren’t typically run their buyers though one of the dealers anyway. Indeed, many gun show organizers require it.
Second, online sales are already illegal unless the gun is shipped to a licensed dealer, who conducts a background check for a fee. Sales on the so-called “Dark Web” (where site addresses are shared only among those operating outside the law) will not become “more illegal” by anything Obama does.
The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler, who has been no friend to conservatives, still gave Obama “two Pinocchios” out of a possible four for his statement about Internet sales. My guess is that if Obama weren’t a Democrat, he would have been awarded the coveted quadruple wooden schnozzes.
Still, something Obama proposed that he actually has the authority to do – add more agents to process background checks – is a worthwhile move, especially since many gun dealers have photos of him in their stores, labeled “Our Best Salesman.”
There are an estimated 300 million firearms in Americans’ hands, and one estimate I saw recently said about a third of them resulted from sales in the past seven years – Obama’s time in office. Black Friday this year saw a record 185,000-plus gun sales processed, the most ever in a single day since application tracking began in 1998. Background checks totaled 23.1 million in 2015, also a record.
Still, the president is actually trying to rewrite black-letter law when he proposes expanding the definition of “firearms dealer” to ordinary people selling guns from their own collections or Uncle Fred selling a favorite set of guns to his nephew. (Or perhaps even a single shotgun: Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she could potentially charge someone for “selling one or two firearms.”)
Here’s what the law says: The definition of dealer “does not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”
What about preventing suicides? There are many ways to kill oneself, and suicide rates are higher in other nations with very tough gun bans. Pills, nooses and cars in garages are available everywhere.
Our founders considered the right to bear arms important enough to put it in the Bill of Rights (“that paper,” Obama called it in his speech). They knew a free people could only maintain their sovereignty, and their sacred right of self-defense, if they were armed.
With gun crimes in steep decline over decades (as gun ownership skyrockets) and multiple studies showing background checks don’t keep criminals from getting guns, there is no objective rationality behind Obama’s actions.
So what does that leave? Why, politics, of course.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: