Every media outlet has reported that President Obama intends to announce one or more executive orders before the end of this month designed to slow or stop gun violence in America. There has been some speculation about what he may attempt to do and today I’m going to clarify some of his options and also weigh in my own opinion.
What Can’t President Obama Do?
President Obama cannot change the law. In order to change our law a bill has to pass through both chambers of Congress and attempts at getting anything through have failed in recent years. Without a change to the law it would be difficult for the President to make any changes that directly do… well anything. That doesn’t mean he cannot indirectly influence things…
What Can He Do?
The President has control or at very least influence over the executive branch of the government which includes various departments and entities. For example, the President has influence on the ATF, the department of the federal government that regulates the commerce of firearms in the United States. Within that framework he can change the administrative rules and policies that surround the buying and selling of guns. I think this is where he is most likely to act and below I detail out my own prediction.
The President also has the ability to negotiate trade deals, set an embargo, and tax imported goods. Some speculate that he can act toward his agenda by preventing or taxing firearms, firearm parts, and ammunition from being imported. A large number of firearms and ammunition in this country are imported and this could force manufacturers out of business and it could dramatically reduce the available firearms and ammunition in the marketplace.
The President also exercises influence over our Military and the Department of Defense. Since the Department of Defense is integrally connected with the sourcing of materials for ammunition and firearm companies changes to the policies here would also create large ripples.
What Do I Think is Most Likely?
Personally, I think the most likely thing we will see happen is President Obama clarify the ATF rules that determine at what point someone must obtain a Federal Firearm License (FFL) in order to buy and sell guns. Let me clarify how this would work.
Right now, anyone who is “in the business of buying and selling guns” must obtain a FFL from the ATF. Once you have a FFL you are required to conduct background checks on buyers of firearms. However, people who are not in the business of buying and selling guns do not have to obtain a FFL and thus do not have to require buyers to obtain a background check (some states have already addressed this with state laws). If Obama creates some clarity to this policy by picking a number of guns that a person can legally buy and sell over a period of time without a FFL then it would likely force collectors and those who buy and sell as a hobby to obtain a FFL and therefore would force a larger number of transactions to require background checks.