“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” President Obama said (warned?) in yesterday’s address on the Sandy Hook massacre. “Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” The statement is difficult to parse, but gun rights advocates are worried that the President of the United States is about to sign an Executive Order banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles (a.k.a, assault rifles). Here’s another “clue” [via cnn.com] . . .
The White House said President Barack Obama supports reinstatement of a federal ban on assault weapons — a position he took in the 2008 campaign but failed to press during his first term.
“It does remain a commitment of his,” presidential spokesman Jay Carney told reporters as the nation reeled from a mass shooting in Connecticut that mainly killed school children.
The gunblogosphere is abuzz with the prospect that a forthcoming Executive Order will also restrict the sale of “high-capacity” magazines (more than ten rounds) and require a federal background check for all private firearms sales. In other words, everything on the gun control industry’s wish list.
Let’s parse the possibilities. First, consider the phrase “regardless of politics,” an expression that the President also used in this morning’s radio address.
No question: it’s a deeply worrying word choice. Married to the intro—“we’re going to have to come together”—the President’s admonition is both finger-wagging and a middle finger to those who would oppose any new federal gun control measures.
The phrase “regardless of politics” paints any [now promised] move to prevent future Sandy Hook massacres though new federal legislation as a struggle along party lines. Which it is. The Republican and Democratic presidential platforms on gun control made that clear enough, as did the candidates during the debate.
The President’s record on bipartisanship is pretty much non-existent. So it’s entirely likely that “coming together” for gun control means “everyone’s going to have to live with what I decide to do,” rather than “let’s work together to hash this out.”
With that as an ominous background, the question becomes will he do it? Will Obama use an Executive Order to ban assault rifles, limit magazine capacity and mandate background checks on private firearms sales?
Well, we know that Mr. Obama isn’t averse to gun control-related Executive Orders. Specifically, he signed an Executive Order (EO) creating a long gun registry in America’s border states. Not to quote myself, but here’s a quick history:
Originally mooted as an “emergency measure” to deal with U.S. to Mexico gun smuggling, the ATF registry morphed into a “pilot program.” Which will now automatically renew. The registry was created by Executive Order, bypassing Congress and violating federal rules against the creation of ANY federal gun registry. After a trip to court, the long gun registry was unleashed.
An EO restricting the sale of “assault weapons” in reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre is not beyond imagination. And hey, the President sure as hell hinted at something to come. I reckon it all boils down to politics. Optics. Timing.
In the run-up to the drive off the fiscal cliff, an EO establishing a new assault weapons ban (AWB) would divert attention away from financial negotiations. It would also ignite a debate over gun control and, more to the point, Executive Orders. An EO running roughshod over pro-gun pols would make Obama seem like an Imperial president.
Which I believe he is. Yes, but does he want to be seen that way? As a second term president, does he even care if he’s seen that way? And while an EO creating an AWB and/or limitations on magazines and private sales would give the Dems grief during the next election cycle, again, Obama may see that as a case of What Me Worry?
Bottom line: in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre there’s a real possibility of an Executive Order creating an AWB. Its probability depends on a huge range of political factors which are impossible to divine in their entirety. In other words, I don’t have a clue.
I suppose the odds of an AWB EO depend on public opinion in the next few days and weeks. Either that or the White House has already pulled the trigger on an EO and they’re just waiting for the right time to announce it. If so, I’m thinking the Prez will drop the bomb on gun rights during the memorial service for the victims.
As always, watch this space.