The Corner

Obama’s ‘Gun Control Executive Action’ Is Almost Certainly a Big Nothing

President Obama is still looking into taking executive action on guns, the AP reports:

President Barack Obama’s advisers are finalizing a proposal that would expand background checks on gun sales without congressional approval.

White House adviser Valerie Jarrett says the president has asked his team to complete a proposal and submit it for his review “in short order.” She says the recommendations will include measures to expand background checks.

Jarrett spoke Wednesday night at a vigil for the victims of the Newtown shooting, according to a summary provided by the White House.

After the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon, Obama said his team was looking for ways to tighten gun laws without a vote in Congress. White House officials have said they’re exploring closing the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows people to buy weapons at gun shows and online without a background check.

It’s almost certain that Jarrett is referring to the same plan that Obama has been flirting with for a while: To redefine “gun dealer” so that the ATF can go after a handful of people who sell multiple firearms privately. Frankly, that plan is a big nothing. As I explained a month or so ago:

Even if we presume that the plan is both legal and workable — and, given how tightly both USC18§921 and USC18§922 are written, I am as skeptical as the president was a few hours ago — the benefits would be microscopic. Were Obama to change the regulations, the Post confirms, he would ensnare only “those dealers who sell at least 50 guns annually” — a tiny fraction of those who sell firearms on the private market. He would not be “closing the gun-show loophole”; he would not be “extending background checks to private sales”; and he would not be elongating the three-day period during which the government is able to search for disqualifying information. Nor, for that matter, would he be banning a single “assault” weapon, limiting even one magazine, or confiscating even a part of a gun. He’d be posturing, and uncomfortably at that.

Moreover, the clock is not in Obama’s favor here. The Administrative Procedure Act requires that the new “rule” be presented for notice and comment before becoming active. That means that, if Obama follows the law, he probably won’t get this done by the time he leaves office. And if he doesn’t follow the law? Well, then he risks being slapped down by a federal court. As for the proposal itself, a serious statutory challenge is all but inevitable.

Unless Obama has something else up his sleeve I wouldn’t worry too much about this. He’s playing to the cameras and to the ignorant.

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