President Obama’s Executive Orders: What They Mean and Their Impact On You (Especially NFA Item Owners)

President Obama (courtesy

Late last night, President Obama unveiled his new executive orders on gun control. Robert excerpted the new proposals. He asked me to comb through and see what exactly will be changing or impacting gun owners based on these new changes. From what I can tell there are two major impacts on the average American gun owner, but even then those changes will impact a remarkably small minority of gun owners . . .

The headline across the mainstream media last night: President Obama was “closing the gun show loophole.” It’s a sexy headline, but it’s completely inaccurate. As we expected President Obama is attempting to exploit some vague language in the Gun Control Act of 1968 that prohibits people from being “in the business” of selling guns without a license.

We’d been expecting that Obama would set a hard and fast limit on the number of guns that would constitute someone being “in the business.” It didn’t happen. He simply took a highlighter to the original language of the law and shoved it in the face of the ATF, expecting them to go out and actively search for such people. Here’s the text from the press release:

Quantity and frequency of sales are relevant indicators. There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement. But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is “engaged in the business.” For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors also were present.

In other words, people making a profit off gun sales without a license are bad, and the ATF should go after them. But the President provided no hard and fast direction for the ATF’s “new” enforcement efforts. This can go one of two ways.

Either the Executive Action is simply Obama paying lip service to “closing the gun show loophole” by appearing tough on private gun sales while actually doing nothing, or this is Obama being purposefully vague to allow his ATF to go after as many people as possible.

Some in the mainstream media are salivating over the idea that merely selling a gun in its original packaging might be enough to trigger this new guideline and classify someone as being “in the business” of selling guns. But there’s nothing in the summary to support that idea.

I believe President Obama has wimped out even further than I anticipated. He isn’t actually doing anything about “the gun show loophole” – beyond asking the ATF to do their job.

We’ve already seen the impact of the second major change: the finalized version of the ATF’s proposed rule on NFA trusts. This is another place where the Obama administration can claim that they have expanded background checks. The fact that no crimes have been committed with legally owned NFA items in at least the last decade is irrelevant to the discussion of whether we need to “crack down” on these items apparently.

One positive change that came out of this: the removal of the CLEO sign-off requirement. People living in Democrat controlled areas whose elected chief of police has been refusing to sign off on NFA paperwork can now legally purchase and register whatever they want. All that is required now is notification — not approval.

The remainder of the executive orders are either recommendations to the various local authorities (e.g., a request to submit more records to the NICS system) or plans to increase funding in the next budget to create more ATF agents and NICS investigators. The President can request funding all he wants but it’s up to Congress and the relevant local authorities to make that happen. Or not.

Bottom line: there’s no meat in the President’s latest Executive Orders. I was expecting a relatively wimpy effort this time around; I’m surprised at just how little the President is stretching his authority and exercising his executive muscle. There’s definitely much more that he could have done, but he decided to play it safe and annoy as few gun owners as possible so as not to influence the upcoming election.