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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

1/17/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Obama could stop a lot of violence, but it wouldn't be politically profitable.

Presidents can be controversial figures. In bids to impose their policy, particularly when faced with hostile legislatures, they use a variety of measures to achieve what they feel is important. Obama acted in this time-honored tradition yesterday by unilaterally imposing a series of directives and clarifications on federal gun policy.

If Obama wanted to make America safe, there's a lot he could do better.

If Obama wanted to make America safe, there's a lot he could do better.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

1/17/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Obama, guns, shootings, executive orders, assault weapons, ban, Second Amendment


WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - Blaming Congressional gridlock, Obama delivered a memorandum containing 23 executive actions designed to tighten gun regulations. He also called on Congress to ban assault rifle sales, to limit the size of ammunition clips, and to mandate background checks on all gun sales. He also called for greater cooperation and information sharing between agencies to make background checks more effective.

Naturally, greatly upsets strong Second Amendment advocates.

While presidents do operate using executive orders and "clarifications" Obama appears to be doing more high-profile work by this means. Reuters quoted William Howell, a University of Chicago expert on presidential powers who said of the Obama administration, "Increasingly, what we're seeing is a lot of the policy-making apparatus of the federal government shifting to the executive branch."

In all fairness, Obama has faced one of the most gridlocked legislatures in recent history. Congress is still without a budget, nor has it taken action on the debt ceiling or on a number of issues from postal reform to the farm bill.

According to statistics, Obama has not issued more executive orders than any other president before himself. Both Clinton and Bush previously issued around 300 such orders during their two terms. Obama is just shy of 150, so he appears on pace to match. However, the weight of his executive orders is what has people fuming.

Obama has bypassed congress several times, and at least a couple of his decisions have been highly controversial. In October 2011, Obama ordered the Justice Department to stand down from enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act, proclaiming it unconstitutional. This was outrageous to many because decreeing existing law unconstitutional is the duty of the judiciary, not Obama.

He has also ruled by edict, his most stunning example being the Health and Human Services mandate, which was imposed by Kathleen Sebelius, to require private employers to pay the full cost for contraception and abortifacients for those women who request it. Many Americans balked at this, saying it would compel employers to violate their conscience by compelling them to pay for inherently immoral procedures.

While Obama's desire to make the country safer from gun violence is laudable, his methods are highly controversial. The issue of gun control is sacred to many Americans for a variety of reasons. Many Americans retain firearms for personal protection, while others keep them for sport, or simply enjoy collecting. Firearms have a long American tradition dating back to the colonial era.

For these reasons, any attempt by a president or congress to reduce gun freedom is typically met with resistance. Adding to the complication is the interpretation of the Second Amendment and what sounds like an inherent conflict between the allowance for the existence of a "well-regulated militia," which some argue is satisfied by the National Guard, versus "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Such ambiguity brings constitutional scholars into the debate on both sides.

The Supreme Court has thus far repeatedly upheld the right of ordinary  Americans, without membership in a militia, to keep firearms.

Perhaps most frustratingly, the administration continues to emphasize the threat of gun violence in America while itself selling automatic weapons to drug cartels that returned to American streets via the failed Fast and Furious operation, and still drops bombs and high-power weaponry on people overseas. Many of those victims end up being innocents classified as "collateral damage."

If the administration were serious about stopping violence, it could be done both easily and rapidly.

First, Obama could stop violence against the unborn as well as treading upon the conscience of employers by reversing the HHS edict. Second, bring to a swift close the armed violence perpetuated by the Administration overseas, using force only against clear and present dangers to the American people. Finally, compile the savings from ceasing military action overseas and put that money into communities where gun violence is endemic.

Federal funds spent on better education, as well as mental health and social services, especially in neighborhoods where violence is high, would do a lot more to save lives than reducing the lawful size of ammunition clips.

Unfortunately, such actions do not promise to bear as much near-term political profit, which would be inconsistent with how politics work in America. Perhaps that's another good reason to keep our rights just as they are.

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