The White House announced it will unveil President Obama's promised executive orders Tuesday morning on "common sense" gun control, but Second Amendment advocates and Republicans in Congress say "not so fast."
They're gearing up for a battle that will extend to the legislative branch and the courts.
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Obama is expected to announce his unilateral plans to work around Congress to rein in gun sales and "make our communities safer," according to a White House statement that appears to borrow the exact talking points of Michael Bloomberg's Every Town For Gun Safety. He plans to deliver remarks at 11:40 a.m. EST Tuesday from the East Room. The president also plans to pitch his ideas at a nationally televised town hall Thursday with Anderson Cooper on CNN.
On Monday evening, the White House released a memo titled, "Promoting Smart Gun Technology." The memo ordered the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to "conduct or sponsor research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms, and improve the tracing of lost or stolen guns." The White House also instructed the departments to "explore potential ways to further [the technology's] use and development to more broadly improve gun safety."
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In the memo, Obama said he directed the Department of Justice in 2013 to review gun safety technologies "such as devices requiring a scan of the owner's fingerprint before a gun can fire."
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As WND reported, Frank Miniter, author of "The Future of the Gun," has warned that mandatory smart-gun technology could make every existing gun in the U.S. illegal.
Also, under the plan announced by the White House:
- Obama plans to expand the definition of a licensed gun dealer to include anyone who sells firearms at gun shows and online. He argues the move will close a purported "legal loophole" that lets gun buyers bypass background checks by purchasing firearms through trusts and corporations.
- Legal barriers will be removed so states can share information on Americans disqualified from gun ownership due to mental health reasons.
- The FBI will hire more than 230 new examiners to process background checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Obama plans to ask Congress to authorize $500 million to fund increased access to mental health care.
Obama insists his actions are within his legal authority and supported by "the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners."
But if Obama acts without Congress' approval to expand background checks to person-to-person gun transfers among fellow gun enthusiasts, he will in effect be laying the foundation for a national gun registry, critics say. And they're preparing to push back hard against any such measures.
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"If you think Obama is going to stop now, you are badly mistaken. This is only the beginning," Alan Gottlieb, executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, told WND.
"President Obama is determined to take away our Second Amendment rights before he leaves office. He has made a public promise to enact his gun control agenda with or without Congress," Gottlieb said. "Now it appears he is starting to make good on his promise through executive orders. This is a direct assault on our Second Amendment rights."
Gottlieb said if Obama follows through with this assault, he should expect SAF and other groups to mount a vigorous legal challenge.
"We intend to bring a lawsuit against to the Obama administration if he follows through on his executive orders and regulations against our constitutional and civil rights," Gottlieb said.
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Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., said Republicans in Congress will attempt to cut funding for any executive orders on gun control, but the legislative body has already given up much of its leverage by passing the omnibus budget bill just before Christmas.
"I hope we will (defund), but that's been part of the problem. And we've funded the government through September, so again we've given up some of our leverage before we've ever been able to negotiate," said Brat, who was one of the minority of Republicans who voted against omnibus.
Brat told WND he believes Obama may also be seeking to distract the American public from his failed foreign policy and slack national security policy in the wake of the Dec. 2 attack by two jihadists that killed 14 Americans in San Bernardino, California.
"That gun issue is a smoke screen for the most important issues right now, which are foreign policy, national security, refugees and the poor economic performance," Brat told WND. "That's what has the American people feeling so unsettled right now. So the president has managed to create a policy that eats up the headlines."
Fox News' Senior Judicial Analyst Andrew Napolitano told Neil Cavuto Monday that Obama's executive actions will be "clearly unconstitutional" and will most likely be invalidated in the courts.
"The president is attempting to rewrite the law in a way that Congress has rejected," Napolitano said.
That sets up a rematch of a battle between the administration and the National Rifle Association over the issue of expanded background checks.
Obama huddled Monday with his attorney general, Loretta Lynch, to discuss the pending executive action on guns. The most likely regulations, according to numerous reports, are expanding background checks and also broadening the definition of what constitutes a firearms "dealer."
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has played an advisory role in Obama's emerging executive orders.
"He personally met with the president and is working with him to get public support for his going around Congress to implement this plan of action against Second Amendment constitutional rights," Gottlieb said.
Jerry Henry, president of GeorgiaCarry.org and an expert on firearms laws, said the so-called "gun show" loophole in the federal law requiring background checks is "non-existent."
Any licensed dealer who sells at a gun show must conduct a background check on everyone he sells to, whether it's at a gun show, in a store, in a private residence or on a street corner.
But many Americans buy or sell several guns per year as a hobby. Some of these person-to-person sales, known as "private sales," are conducted at gun shows simply because this is where a lot of hobbyists find each other.
"If I'm walking down the aisle of a gun show and I've got a gun over my shoulder and someone says, 'How much you want for that?,' then I can sell it to him and that's what's known as a private sale. And no background check is required," Henry said. "However, if I know that person to be a suspicious person and I sell him the gun anyway, I have just committed a felony."
One of the possible ways around this "loophole" is to place a limit on the number of guns a person can sell privately before being considered a firearms dealer.
"They've been talking about trying to force people who sell five or more guns a year to become a federal firearms dealer," Henry said. "Right now, if you're not in the business of selling firearms, you don't have to have a license. But if you are in it to make a living at it, then you have to have one. There is no specific number right now that triggers the need for a license."
Henry said he believes the real reason behind such rules is to hassle law-abiding gun owners and allow the government to track the movement of all guns, creating in effect a national gun registry.
"Some just like to trade firearms. I know a guy who will get a gun and he'll have it a month or three weeks and decide he didn't really want it and he'll trade it for something else. People like him would have to get a license," Henry said.
Another option is to go the way of Washington state, which recently passed a voter-approved initiative requiring all transfers of guns, even loans of guns between family members, to trigger the need for a background check.
"Other than those two things, I don't know what else he can do that would be even close to being legal, and I'm not sure he can do any of this with it being legal," he added.
"What they are really aiming at doing, what they have really wanted over years and years is a national registry. And if they do get that, every gun that changes hands, you will have to register it, and you have what is known as a national gun registry, where the government knows where all the guns are," Henry said.
From that point, the next step – confiscation – can easily be implemented at any time, either selectively against certain groups or wholesale.
Henry said this is the critical point that many Americans who support universal background checks don't understand.
"If there should ever come to be a national registry, then that means the government would be able to walk into your house anytime they want to and check if you have guns that are not on their lists," he said. "And if you do have one of those guns, you should be carted off to jail."
"People will say, 'I don't see a problem with that.' But they don't stop to think, 'If the government can come into my house to check to see if I have something not on that list, they then can come into your house and check, too,'" he said.
"That will basically be the end of what few civil rights we have left in this country."
CNN is hosting a town hall on "gun violence" with Anderson Cooper and President Obama on Thursday night.
GOP presidential candidates react
Many of the GOP presidential candidates have come down forcefully against Obama's looming executive orders on guns.
Cruz said President Obama thinks he can work around Congress because he's got "a pen and a phone."
"He can abuse his power all he wants," Cruz said in a stump speech in Iowa Monday. "Well, if you live by the pen, you die by the pen. And my pen has got an eraser."
Marco Rubio issued a similar ultimatum, saying he would undo any executive order restricting gun purchases "on my first day in office."
Jeb Bush said said Obama’s "first impulse always is to take rights away from law-abiding citizens, and it’s wrong."
Trump looking one step ahead
Donald Trump said he believed Obama's executive actions were merely a starting point, not an end game, when it comes to guns.
"Pretty soon you won't be able to get guns," he told CNN's Chris Cuomo. "It's another step in the way of not getting guns."
Trump suggested that the keys to blunting mass shootings are an increased focus on mental health – a focus on "the people that actually pull the trigger on the gun" – and a push to put those weapons in the hands of civilians.
"If the people in Paris had guns, you know what, you wouldn't have had 134 people and many more to follow get killed," he said. "And if people in California had guns, a couple of guns in that room, you wouldn't have had 16 people killed."
Trump also used the interview to slam areas where guns are prohibited or restricted, saying, "Whenever I see gun-free zone, that's a flag for the wackos to come in and start shooting people."
Henry said he expects the CNN town hall meeting to be largely a staged event meant to sway public opinion. Polls show the vast majority of Americans don't want stiffer gun-control laws.
"I don't guess you'll see the list of Second Amendment supporters that will be asking questions of Barack Obama," Henry said. "You can guess he is not. And if he is, his answer has been totally vetted. The answer will come up on the teleprompter."
"One of the things that makes me feel kind of decent about this is he's taking so long to do it, and that means he's having trouble figuring out what he's going to do and how he's going to do it," Henry said.
Paul Ryan calls plan 'executive overreach'
Ryan issued a statement Monday saying Obama was subverting the Constitution and distracting attention from "radical Islamic terror."
His statement read in part:
"We should also better enforce the laws we have on the books now to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals. Instead, the president is again targeting law-abiding citizens, intruding further into innocent Americans' lives. At a time when the country wants the president to lead the fight against radical Islamic terror, this is yet another attempt to divide and distract from his failed policies.
"While we don’t yet know the details of the plan, the president is at minimum subverting the legislative branch, and potentially overturning its will. His proposals to restrict gun rights were debated by the United States Senate, and they were rejected. No president should be able to reverse legislative failure by executive fiat, not even incrementally. The American people deserve a president who will respect their constitutional rights – all of them. This is a dangerous level of executive overreach, and the country will not stand for it."