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Congressional Apathy Encourages Pres. Obama to Issue Executive Order Acting on Gun Violence

Congressional Apathy Encourages Pres. Obama to Issue Executive Order Acting on Gun Violence

Credit: Reuters / Image of: Victims of Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, CT

President Obama announced in his New Years Day (weekly) address, that he would meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday moving forward with his plan to issue an Executive Order. This executive order will impose regulations attempting to stop gun violence. Can he do this? Do U.S. presidents have the authority to unilaterally enact law? In a sense, yes, using the Executive Order as her or his tool. “Executive Orders (EOs) are legally binding orders given by the President, acting as the head of the Executive Branch, to Federal Administrative Agencies. Executive Orders are generally used to direct federal agencies and officials in their execution of congressionally established laws or policies.” But in this case, Congressional apathy on the epidemic of gun violence gives no reason to assume they would intervene before President Obama leaves office. Based on the statistics of gun violence death in the United States, waiting an additional year while Congress continues to ignore the issue could cost tens of thousands of American lives.

The president is chiefly responsible for the health and safety of the citizens of this country. Due to the failure of Congress to act in the face of endless death, he is obligated to intervene. Legal scholars may be inclined to agree. The Second Amendment to the constitution is not thwarted by an imposition of basic regulations meant to prevent dangerous people from obtaining weapons. Thus, these executive measures hold constitutional muster.

President Obama emotional as he addresses the nation after the Sandy Hook massacre

Noted by Olga Khazan of the Washington Post, “The United States has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world -- an average of 88 per 100 people, according to a 2007 Small Arms Survey.” This abundant supply of guns has proven costly as gun deaths rise and Congressional inaction mounts.

According to the Pew Research Center, certain gun regulations, like universal background checks have bi-partisan support. Their poll indicates 80% of the population supports those measures. Quinnipiac University conducted a poll that shows similar results – with 91.5% of the population supporting these commonsense gun regulations. Despite these overwhelming majorities, as President Obama acknowledged in his address, “the gun lobby mobilized against it. And the Senate blocked it.”

Compelled to make frequent addresses memorializing victims of gun violence, the President’s action may seem long overdue. During President Obama’s presidency we witnessed him address the nation after countless massacres, including:

            - Charleston, South Carolina
            - Fort Hood, Texas (twice)
            - Newtown, Connecticut
            - Tucson, Arizona
            - Oak Creek, Wisconsin
            - Washington, D.C.
            - Overland Park, Kansas
            - Aurora, Colorado
            - Chattanooga, Tennessee
            - Roseburg, Oregon
            - San Bernardino, California

While Congress remains unwilling to do its job, we can expect the typical anti gun regulation talking points in response to President Obama’s executive order:
• Criminals will always have guns
• We need to enforce the laws on the books
• We need more mental health treatment
• If EVERYONE had a gun, there would be no gun violence
• Blaming guns for gun violence is like blaming forks for obesity
• If you take guns away, people will just use knives
• A good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun
• These laws unfairly burden law-abiding citizens
• A background check wouldn’t have stopped the last massacre

Surprisingly, even after the San Bernardino Christmas party attack, lawmakers did not agree whether people classified as too dangerous to fly were also too dangerous to own high powered weapons. Many in Congress and several Republican presidential candidates continue to support the right of individuals on the FBI no-fly list to own guns. The president has embraced the label of tyrant and fascist and shrugged it aside as he pushes these regulatory measures through. His response to that charge is brief, “the Second Amendment guarantees a right to bear arms… [but] keeping an irresponsible, dangerous few from inflicting harm on a massive scale” is necessary to protect our children. 

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