President Obama’s Executive “Actions”

Yesterday the President Obama announced and publicly signed 23 executive actions in response to the violence at Sandy Hook, as well as called for Congress to restore a ban on military-style assault weapons and to implement 10-round limit for magazines.

As New York Magazine correctly noted, he did not signed executive orders, but rather executive “actions” whichis a vague term that can refer to anything done by the executive (the president). Some of the items on the White House’s list of 23 ‘executive actions such as ‘Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health’ and ‘Nominate an ATF director’ are more like personal priorities.”

He did sign 3 presidential memorandums:

  1. Presidential Memorandum — Tracing of Firearms in Connection with Criminal Investigations
  2.  Presidential Memorandum — Improving Availability of Relevant Executive Branch Records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
  3.  Presidential Memorandum — Engaging in Public Health Research on the Causes and Prevention of Gun Violence

According to a 1999 Congressional Research Service report, a presidential memorandum and an executive order are identical, save for the name itself. The power it has is the same. These three memorandums essentially guarantee him the power to do most of what he describes in his 23 “actions.”

It’s interesting to note that for DAYS leading up to this speech,  news outlets all over the nation referred to these as Executive ORDERS over and over and over again, leading me to believe that the president decided to go back-door on us.  Everything we heard and were told led us to believe that they would be executive orders, not “actions.” Let’s take a gander at a few of those pre-press conference pieces, shall we?

January 14th– New York Times: Obama Plans 19 Executive Orders on Gun Control 

January 16th(6:30 am.)-The Washington Post: How President Obama’s executive orders on guns might doom a big bill

January 16th– Fox News: Sources say he’s [Obama] weighing as many as 19 possible actions he could take through executive order. 

January 15th– American Thinker: Obama looking at 19 – count ’em, 19 – executive orders on guns

January 15th– New York Magazine: Obama Considering Nineteen Executive Orders on Gun Control; Republicans Freaking Out 

I think that he [Obama] fully intended to announce 19 executive orders yesterday, and the news outlets across the board knew it. Instead, he called them “actions” and added 4 more to the list, in what I feel was a move to help dilute the intensity of some of the “actions.” You know, surround them with fluff, and they don’t seem as harsh. By signing just three “memorandums” or “executive orders” that in an underhanded way give him quite broad authority, he ensured that his “actions” would have power behind them without giving the appearance of such sweeping power. I believe that by doing it this way, he was able to avoid the mounting backlash for abusing executive power. . . and to be perfectly blunt, he simply gets to be sneakier about it now.

So what do his 23 executive actions mean, and if they’re not “orders,” should we be concerned?

Let’s take a look at those 23:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

#1, #2, & #3 expand the federal government’s involvement in the flow of information for background checks. Currently, the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) exists to perform an instant check for prospective buyers, prompting denial of the purchase if the person has a criminal record. Thus far, of the over 100 million inquiries made, 700,000 denials have also been issued. If a system is already in place at the federal level to check whether or not a person has a criminal record, what need is there to “prioritize” the collection of information from the several states to supplement what the NICS already does? As I have mentioned in previous conversations, I do believe mental health records could play a role in background checks, but at a state level, as each state government determines. Federal HIPPA laws as they pertain to privacy standards for each patient–including those with mental health problems–would currently stand in the way of performing such an action. This could be remedied differently and less intrusively (and I would certainly advocate that mental health patients who present a serious danger should have their mental records available as part of a background check), but per these actions it appears that the president’s desire is to involve the federal government itself in gleaning that information from the states to then be used in a far more centralized repository, and this naturally raises concerns.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

#4 seems logical at first, but quite vague, and frankly unnecessary  Consider the current categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun:

  1. Someone under indictment or convicted of a felony
  2. A fugitive from justice
  3. Someone who abuses any controlled substances
  4. Any person that has been adjudicated as suffering from mental health issues
  5. An illegal alien, or an alien admitted under a non-immigrant visa
  6. Someone dishonorably discharged from the Armed forces, or
  7. Someone who has renounced his or her United States citizenship

Criminals, certifiably crazy people, illegals, and expatriates. That seems to just about cover it, no?

If the NICS is already in place “to ensure that each customer does not have a criminal record or isn’t otherwise ineligible [per the aforementioned categories] to make a purchase,” what need is there for the Attorney General to determine “further categories” of dangerous individuals? This seems to leave the door wide open for interpretation.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

The assumption would be that if one’s gun has been seized  there’s a problem with one’s background, or with current actions which would interfere with legal gun ownership, so this statement seems a little superfluous. However (though I cannot yet confirm this), I’ve heard some discussion around the idea that this could be construed to mean that if a gun owner happens to live with someone who then breaks the law, that gun owner’s firearm could be seized  and a full background check must be performed on the owner before it is returned. If this is indeed true, this treads on dangerous grounds as to the rights a lawful citizen has to his or her property.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing  guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

This refers to transactions carried out between two private individuals outside the setting of a licensed gun dealer. That is, if I have a gun and wish to sell it to a friend, I could technically sell it without performing a background check; though the person would still be breaking the law if he or she fell into one of aforementioned categories of individuals not permitted to own a gun. Sounds great, especially in light of the fact that the president has often claimed that 40% of all gun sales fall under this category. However, as John Fund notes, “The dubious statistic of guns that avoided background checks — which is actually 36 percent — comes from a small 251-person survey on gun sales two decades ago, very early in the Clinton administration. Most of the survey covered sales before the Brady Act instituted mandatory federal background checks in early 1994.” 

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

Ah yes, because responsible gun ownership stops crazy people and criminals.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Another moment of brilliance. Ah yes- because stricter rules on gun locks and gun safes will deter a crazy person or a criminal hell bent on committing an atrocity.

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

Too bad the president can’t particularly take credit for this epiphany. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s (via the ATF) Firearms Tracing Guide, “firearms tracing is the single most important strategy in determining sources of crime guns, linking suspects to firearms in criminal investigations, and developing strategies to address firearms-related violence.” (November 2011)

I wonder if this also means that Eric Holder must trace Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s killer’s gun, as well as the gun of slain ICE agent Jaime Zapata’s killer– back to himself, since (oh darn it) he and his Department of Justice was responsible for the failed gun-running Operation Fast & Furious. I won’t be holding my breath.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

Maybe we’ll get a report on how the DOJ “lost” the guns involved in Operation Fast & Furious.

In all seriousness though, by law you are required to report a lost or stolen gun within 48 hours to local law enforcement, and the ATF. All this would do would allow local law enforcement to be aware of national levels of lost and stolen guns. What precisely would this have done to stop Adam Lanza or James Holmes?

11. Nominate an ATF director.

The nomination of an ATF (The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), director signals a vast strengthening of this federal organization; the usage of which has been aimed primarily at firearms. This can hardly be considered only a “to-do,” as the President has already chosen his nominee (pending Congressional confirmation), B. Todd Jones.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

An example of the “fluff” I referenced. Sounds great-looks great- but this sort of training is already in place. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, “an inter-agency law enforcement training organization. . .which provides services to state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement agencies,”  has a program known as ASTTP or “Active Shooter Threat Training Program” directed at none other than “instilling the knowledge and skills to successfully handle an active threat event.”


The Federal Government has a crisis management training manual in place for schools as well, including but not limited to school shootings. 

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

This “priority” is also quite vague and open to interpretation. This, combined with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s promise yesterday that the Department of Homeland Security will “expand and formalize coordination of ongoing efforts prevent future mass casualty shootings, improve preparedness, and to strengthen security and resilience in schools and other potential targets,” indicates a far stronger federal involvement in many issues that should constitutionally fall to the states.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

This is yet another vague directive. A 10 year old–I daresay even one of the few standing behind Obama yesterday–can you tell you what causes gun violence. Crazy people, and evil people. It’s as simple as that. We’ve already established that the mentally incapacitated cannot own a gun, nor can the lawbreaker. . .so . . .?

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

Translation- further federal regulations on how any gun can be produced. “Biden. Joe Biden” went all Hollywood on us the other day when he made reference to the Bond “smart gun,” which in the movie recognizes the palm of the owner, and operates only for that person. We’ll see if that’s possible in the future. For now, it’s simply the stuff of Tinseltown.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

This gets dicey. What this does is essentially deputize ALL in the medical profession and bring them into the gun control debate. The insinuation is that they must inquire as to the gun ownership status of a patient if they feel the “need.” Health professionals who become aware of a credible danger on the part of one of their patients is already obligated to report it–yet this takes a step further and involves the doctor him or herself in the private ownership of a gun. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., also a physician, noted today that Obama was “pushing the government further into the exam room. He’s trying to press doctors into government service by pushing them to ask patients, even child patients, if there are guns in their home. After more than thirty years of operating a family practice, I can tell you it should not be the business of a family physician to take inventory of the guns in a patient’s home,” he said, noting that there are already laws ensuring that doctors warn authorities about criminal activity.”

17. Release a letter to health-care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law-enforcement authorities.

This already exists for the proper medical professionals in the mental health field. “According to Dr. Keith Ablow, psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team, if a psychiatrist’s patient discusses a plan to do harm to someone during a therapy session, then the medical professional has a legal obligation to take action. . . ‘Psychiatrists who knowingly do not notify authorities when receiving this kind of information are subject to civil suits as well as disciplinary action from licensing authorities'”

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

Resource officers? If by armed guards- I’m right there with the president on this. That NRA ad must have worked. Incidentally, the NRA was thoroughly blasted for bringing up the fact that Obama’s two daughters attend school under the protection of armed guards, yet the Obama administration was, until today, “skeptical” about putting armed guards in the rest of America’s schools. The NRA was blasted for using Malia and Sasha in the ad, something the White House called “repugnant and cowardly.” Funny how the White House didn’t find hiding behind a screen of children at the announcement of his gun control “actions” “repugnant and cowardly.” Le sigh.

19. Develop model emergency-response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

Refer to #12.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental-health services that Medicaid plans must cover. 

I’m confused. Wasn’t Obamacare supposed to remedy the problem of the “untreated” in this country? I guess not. I’m at a loss as to why we’re still talking about Medicaid, but oh well. Let’s look at what Medicaid already provides:

“Medicaid reimbursement is available for mental and behavioral health services covered under various service categories: physician’s services, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, licensed practitioner’s services, clinics, rehabilitative services, inpatient psychiatric hospital services for individuals under age 21, as well as, prescription drugs. Examples of Services in these categories include: Counseling, therapy, medication management, psychiatrist’s services, licensed clinical social work services, peer supports, and substance abuse treatment.  

Individuals may receive services in their homes, other residences, in schools, or medical institutions, if necessary. While states have the option to cover some of these services, EPSDT requires that children receive all medically necessary services, including mental health services. In addition to State Plan services, states may offer mental health benefits through home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers.”

Am I missing something? With the exception of certain variances depending state by state, all CHILDREN (under the age of 21) must receive mental health treatment if needed. Adam Lanza was 20.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

ACA= Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare.” I guess they’re still reading it “to find out what’s in it.”

22. Commit to finalizing mental-health-parity regulations.

See #21.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

Yes- another mindless federal dialogue in which a room full of Ivy League graduates sit around and “talk” about the problem. I’m not sure I understand the need to hold national dialogues about mental health in this country as it relates to gun control, as we’ve already established that the mentally ill cannot own guns legally, and we’ve also previously established that per this administration, treatment for mental health issues should be entirely covered, and in fact “more accessible  (their words, not mine) to those who need it.

So there you have it- gun control a la Barack Obama.

I’ll leave you with a thought to consider:

Not ONE of the above “actions” would have done anything to stop Newtown.

Not one.

Food for thought.

3 thoughts on “President Obama’s Executive “Actions”

  1. Thank you again for your in-depth research and analysis of the “action”/”orders.” Do you believe the change of the wording was done to head off any impeachment attempts? In your opinion, are the three memorandums/orders impeachable actions.

    • I think so. They were being called executive orders all the way up until the day of. . . and then the word was no where to be found. If you look at the memorandums, they all quietly give the president authority to carry out his “presidential actions.” The actions are primarily divided up into 3 categories or so, which I feel fit well within those memorandums. And the fact that they are SO vague leaves SO much to interpretation. I feel that several of the actions are impeachable, and since those actions are all but formally granted power by the memorandums. . .

      Then again, Obamacare is wholly unconstitutional (despite Benedict Roberts’ absolutely flawed SCOTUS opinion), and he got away with that(among other things).

      In particular, I think the biggest offenders as it pertains to “impeachable” offenses are the deputizing of doctors- forcing them to question their patients and report it to the government (because even though it doesn’t specify that they “must,” the implication therein is that conversely, if a crime is committed and the federal government determines that a doctor “could have stopped it,” the implication is that that doctor will be partially held responsible; I think his hijacking of the states’ rights maintain the private information of their citizens instead of dumping it all into a federal repository is concerning. . .and frankly, if he’s going to order federal law enforcement “to trace guns recovered in criminal investigation,” and ” maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime” then by default he must himself, along with Eric Holder and everyone else involved in Fast & Furious– be prosecuted. I’m not counting on it 🙂

      • Thank you. I agree, and I appreciate how you have brought the Fast & Furious comparison into this.

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