As President Barak Obama is poised to issue an executive order tightening firearm regulations this week, critics are berating him for attempting to bypass Congress, which has repeatedly rebuffed reform efforts.
But some Arizona gun supporters suspect the president’s scheme is even sneakier.
Alan Korwin, a Scottsdale author who has written 10 books on gun laws, acknowledged that Obama has authority to tweak the legal code. However, he said, without an act of Congress, he is largely limited to altering technical details.
Obama’s preliminary plans, leaked to Politico, focus on more explicitly defining what it means to be “engaged in the business” of firearms sales with the aim of decreasing the number of guns sold without background checks. Now, only people who sell guns with the “principal objective of livelihood and profit” are required to get a dealer’s license from the federal government and, therefore, conduct background checks on buyers.
Gun-control advocates argue that the move could save lives by making it harder for dangerous or mentally ill people to purchase guns. Korwin contends, though, that would make life more difficult for everyday gun owners.
Without knowing how Obama intends to separate firearms dealers from hobbyists looking to cash out on their collection, of course, it is difficult to say exactly how the change would affect gun owners. If, for example, he defines a dealer as somebody who sells 50 guns a year, Korwin predicted, little would change for anybody.
“Those people are already registered as dealers,” he said.
If, however, he changed the definition to include people who sell two firearms a year or have an inventory of 20 guns, he said, that would “make everyone in America who has a collection a dealer,” making them subject to inspection, warrant-less searches, and mounds of paperwork.
“Will that stop Jihadis? Of course not,” he said. “Will that stop psychotics from shooting up classrooms? Not in any way shape or form.”
Overall, Korwin said he found the proposal suspiciously benign.
“Changing the definition isn’t too harmful; he’s not going to raise a lot of eyebrows with that,” he said. “But this could be a false flag, and the executive order he’s going to issue has nothing to do with this.”
Charles Heller, co-founder of the Arizona Citizen’s Defense League, the state’s largest Second Amendment support group, shared Korwin’s skepticism. He suggested that Obama’s executive action might be a red herring to distract gun advocates from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts to expand background checks at the state level.
Bloomberg’s gun-control advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, is pushing to impose stricter background checks on people buying firearms from private sellers by collecting signatures to put the issue to a ballot vote in more than a dozen states, including Arizona. The initiative passed in Washington will be on the ballot in Nevada this year.
“Frankly, I suspect strongly this is a distraction,” Heller said. “There isn’t much legally that the Obamaist-in-Chief’ can do legally to foul up our freedom, but he can make a great rattling noise and try to focus attention on him.“
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Obama met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch Monday to discuss options.
"The good news is .. these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and [that of] the executive branch, but they're also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support," Obama said during the meeting, according to Reuters.
He invited a few well-known Arizona gun-violence victims, including John and Roxanna Green, parents of a 9-year-old girl killed during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson that injured then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, to the White House Tuesday morning. Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, also were invited to attend.
On Thursday, the president will join CNN's Anderson Cooper for a one-hour live-town hall meeting on gun control at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. The meeting coincides with the anniversary of the Tucson rampage, which wounded 13 and killed 6.