Vice President Biden is expected to submit his recommendations to President Obama sometime next week with regard to what, if any, changes we should implement on the matter of guns. Earlier this week, Biden commented that an Executive order may be used to enforce these changes as opposed to using a piece of legislation that was debated on and ultimately passed through both chambers of Congress on its way to becoming law.
The outrage from the right has been loud and rather high pitched in reaction to the possible use of Executive Order (EO) by this Administration. The Drudge Report, for example, posted this photo and headline after word on the possible use of EO's came out:
Yes, those are pictures of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, two of the worst human beings in the history of the planet. And, there's this guy. James Yeager, CEO of a company called "Tactical Response" who expressed his feelings this way:
A perfectly healthy, sensible position, wouldn't you say?
(NOTE: As of this afternoon, Mr. Yeager's gun licence was suspended for the remarks he made in the video above. Read the story here...)
We also saw talk show host Alex Jones of Infowars.com comment in general regarding gun laws on the Piers Morgan show on CNN earlier this week:
There seems to be this notion that if President Obama does use an executive order to make some changes in our gun laws, that it would be:
B) UnprecedentedC) An Anti-American abuse of power
It would be none of those things. Executive Orders have been utilized since the times of Lincoln and before. According to the National Archives, which has tracked every Presidential executive order since 1937, Obama seems to use the privilege less than most recent President's have.
As of late last Fall, Obama has used EO's 140 times. Compare that to these other President's:
GW Bush - 291 in 8 years...
Clinton - 364 in 8 years...
Bush Sr. - 166 in 4 years...
Reagan - 366 in 8 years...
Carter - 320 in 4 years...
Nixon, LBJ - both over 300...
Eisenhower - was over 500...
Truman - well over 900...
At this rate, Obama is on pace to use fewer EO's than any full term POTUS except George H. W. Bush did since tracking began. Is this the abuse of a dictator? Not hardly. Presidents can not overturn any Amendment to the Constitution that they feel like. Congress has the right to veto the order with a 2/3rds majority vote from both houses. Congress may also elect to deny funding to any executive order being fulfilled. The order can be appealed to the Supreme Court, in fact. Long term, if nothing is able to reverse an EO, it can simply be repealed by the next President who takes office. Simple. We don't need people like Mr. Yeager to take up arms against other Americans to defeat it. We're civilized and the right answer is rarely found with a gun.
There is another take on this subject, one that I haven't seen or read much about. The politics of this are interesting. Imagine you are a Republican up for re-election in an area where the Tea Party is a presence but not in the majority just yet. You support your constituents usually but there have been whispers from your right (from the tea partiers who would love to get your seat next election) that you are not conservative enough.
You also realize that with the Obama Administration winning most of the year-end fiscal cliff battle, that Congress, especially the House, is in no mood to cooperate on anything until spending is addressed in a meaningful way. Certainly not a proposal that even remotely infringes on the Second Amendment. Even if the Biden recommendations are nothing more than increased background checks, close the gun-show loophole and increased mental health funding, (all pretty easy to swallow reforms), how could Mr. GOP in a tea party area support such a Bill? It would be safer for that Congressman's career to reject it, be able to fight the tea party challenge on a different issue and keep the Republican leadership happy at the same time. Understand, this person wouldn't have voted against this proposal because of any credible reason except for politics. Courage, it seems, is over-rated in politics these days.
Should the Obama Administration decide to use executive orders to strengthen our gun laws with the hopes of avoiding another mass shooting, it takes it off the political table for now. For moderate republicans who may support the changes, they won't have to publicly speak in favor of it. or go on record as having voted for it. With the current dynamics between this President and the current Congress being what they are, an executive order may be the best, perhaps the only way to implement meaningful reforms.
In a recent Gallup poll, most Americans seem to want stricter gun laws, but oppose an outright ban. If the Congress can't/won't put everything else aside and agree to work together on this, then I applaud President Obama for leading on this issue and getting some common sense measures put into place. One caveat, I do think the President should give Congress the chance to vote on his proposal. Yes, many may likely say why vote for this when we know Obama will put this into place via EO if it fails to pass Congress? The reason? To get these Congressmen and women on the record. Obama takes the high road and gives Congress a chance to participate in the action. If they agree, terrific. If they don't, at some date in the future Obama implements all of the proposals via executive order. The Congress can complain all the want, but their chance will have come and gone. If they won't lead, I suspect President Obama will.