You know how they say there’s nothing so dangerous as a wounded animal? Scratch that — it turns out there’s something much worse. Nothing’s more dangerous than a (politically) wounded politician. Particularly one with executive powers. In his obligatory annual state of the union speech tonight, president Barack Obama promised new measures (“with or without congress”) to affect via executive order that would further restrict Americans’ right to keep and bear arms – all couched in a desire to prevent another Sandy Hook, of course. Congress and our constitutionally-mandated system of checks-and-balances be damned . . .
As every grade-schooler learns in civics class, the entire point of a divided government is to keep any one branch from becoming too powerful. So if Congress passes extreme, unpopular legislation, the President can step in and veto it. Alternately, if the President proposes policies that go against the will of the people, Congress can ignore them or vote them down. And the Supreme Court acts like the parent of the (sometimes) dysfunctional family, stepping in when needed to determine if what’s passed and signed is constitutional.
The president’s decision to use his executive powers to sidestep congressional approval is more than a little worrying. A divided legislative branch has meant Obama has been largely roadblocked since 2010. But with no further elections in his future, the president apparently feels free to try to do whatever he wants with the stroke of his pen. If you like your legislative branch, you can keep your legislative branch.
While congress seems to have realized that gun control is a dead issue for now, the president isn’t so content to let things lie. He issued a number of executive orders a year ago in the aftermath of Newtown. Now he appears set to use the regulatory agencies under his control (read: ATF) to go still further. A prime example is the ATF’s recent decision to expand the CLEO sign-off requirement for every member of a gun trust. Something they seemed set to eliminate, before doing a 180, supposedly at the behest of the White House.
In tonight’s State of the Union speech, Obama announced that he intends to do just that: act to further restrict the constitutionally protected rights of American citizens without congressional approval.
Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid,” and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters, shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.
What’s up Obama’s sleeve now? We don’t know, but three options come immediately to mind: 1) an ATF regulation mandating universal background checks, 2) a total ban of all firearms imports, and 3) a new “assault weapons” ban. Will he pick door number one, number two or number three? Some combination? All of them? Or maybe something altogether different? As always, watch this space.