President Obama announced his shortly awaited list of executive actions in response to the Newtown shootings and gun violence, a list that included very little of substance that would actually address a problem. That did not stop the wingnuts from freaking out, calling him a dictator and a tyrant trying to seize unlimited power. Charles Fried, Reagan’s Solicitor General, scoffs at such claims:
“These are either standard exercises of presidential power, or even more benignly, standard examples of the power of the president to exhort the public or state officials to be aware of certain problems and to address them,” Charles Fried, who was Reagan’s solicitor general during his second term, told me today.
Fried noted that some of the provisions are merely “use of the bully pulpit.” What he means is that provisions such as “launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign” and “challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies” to promote gun safety merely constitute the use of presidential stature to advocate. “If that’s an impeachable offense, then the president has just lost his first amendment rights,” Fried said.
Referring to provision number 11, Fried joked: “Is it an impeachable offense to nominate an ATF director?”
Fried noted that other provisions — such as directing the Attorney General to review categories of people prohibited from gun ownership, and addressing “unnecessary legal barriers” that prevent states from sharing info with the background check system — merely constitute a vow to review existing laws with an eye towards improving them. “How can there be anything offensive about the Attorney General reviewing existing legislation to see if there are any loopholes?” Fried asked.
There are only a couple things in Obama’s list of actions that would genuinely have much of an effect. Making sure the database used for background checks is up to date at all times is obviously a good thing. And getting rid of the private sales and gun show loopholes that get around the waiting periods and background checks is a good idea, but doing that requires Congressional approval, which kind of undercuts that talk of being a tyrant (not that reality has anything to do with paranoid right wing fantasies).
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