Obama’s gun law a hollow gesture

by Jim Longworth

Last week President Obama issued an Executive Order which he hopes will curb gun violence in America. His Order consists of three elements: First it seeks to clarify who is required to have a federal license to sell firearms at gun shows; Second, it calls for the addition of 230 FBI agents to process background checks on gun purchasers; and Third, it allocates half a billion dollars for treatment of mental illness.

Obama announced his Executive Order at a press conference in which he invoked the memory of the twenty children who were murdered at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012. While speaking of those deaths, the President shed tears of sorrow. The press seemed to buy into the waterworks. Even Donald Trump said Obama’s tears were real. Perhaps, but they were also staged, and it wasn’t the first time the President has done so. Following the Sandy Hook massacre I wrote a column entitled, “Obama’s Tears Too Little Too Late.” Just as he did last week, Obama shed tears at his December 2012 press conference, and did so on the same talking points. It is just one of five reasons why I believe his Executive Order is a hollow gesture.



Last week’s press conference once again demonstrates that Obama’s tears are too little too late. Even if they were genuine and heartfelt tears, the question remains, Why the concern now? and Why not seven years ago? Obama apologists point out that the President would have never gotten tough gun laws through a Republican Congress. But for the first two years of his Presidency, Obama had a Democrat majority in both Chambers. In January of 2009, there were 256 Democrats and 178 Republicans in the House, while Democrats held a 55 to 41 edge in the Senate. Moreover, the President has had more than enough reasons to push for gun reforms. According to, there have been 162 mass shootings on his watch (compared with just 20 during two terms under George Bush). We’ve experienced massacres at a Fort, a movie theatre, a college campus, a church, a clinic, and an elementary school. We even had a member of Congress shot in broad daylight. But each time an incident occurred, all we got from our Commander in Chief was condolences, rhetoric, and tears. In his January 28, 2015 State of the Union address, Obama said, “I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown, Boston, Texas, and West Virginia.” But not once following a mass shooting did the President ever issue an Executive Order to deal with the problem. Why? Because he couldn’t afford to alienate voters, either during his own re-election cycle, or in off year elections. Now he is a lame duck, and it is finally politically safe for him to appear to do something about gun violence. The operative word here is “appear”.



Nothing in the President’s Executive Order does anything to reduce the number of firearms in this country, it only attempts to delay or deny gun purchases by a few bad apples. As of 2010, the population of the United States was about 309 million. Meanwhile, according to the Congressional Research Service, there are 310 million firearms in America. Translation? A shit load of guns are already in circulation. So even if no more guns were purchased, there’s still enough firepower available to fuel any number of murders.



Based on reason #2, one can make the assumption that the President’s Executive Order will do little or nothing to reduce gun violence. That’s not just my opinion, but it is the belief of law enforcement officials I have spoken with who know about and come up against what seems to be an endless supply of weapons in circulation. The President could argue that stepping up background checks at gun shows might deter anyone with criminal intent. But as I pointed out in previous columns, federal background checks are limited in scope, and don’t always take into consideration someone’s mental illness or proclivity for violence.



Don Efred, owner of Archdale Arms and Archery told the Greensboro News & Record recently that a “high percentage of vendors at gun shows already are federally licensed dealers.” Other dealers say over 90% of exhibitors at gun shows are licensed. I have attended a number of such shows, and I’ve never walked by a display of guns that wasn’t manned by a federally licensed dealer. Obviously the President has never attended a gun show, or else he would realize that his Executive Order is aimed at solving a crisis that doesn’t exist.



In addition to reasons already stated, Obama’s Executive Order rings hollow because he knows Congress can and will dismantle some or all of the elements of that Order, either sooner or later. Specifically, Congress has the power to overturn an Executive Order in two ways. First they can simply pass legislation which is in conflict with the Order. Second, they can refuse to provide the funding necessary to carry out policy measures contained in the Order. Either way, the President’s Executive Order as written will be short lived.

If Mr. Obama is determined to circumvent Congress, he should have included elements in his Executive Order that were substantive, rather than superficial. He should have reinstated the 1994 ban on assault weapons, and required a 90-day waiting period for the purchase of any firearm (including shotguns). He should also have mandated that any potential firearm purchaser obtain a note from a licensed physician saying that the buyer is mentally fit. Rather than only funding mental health treatment, he should have also focused on prevention. For example, he could have required that all 8th and 11th grade students be screened for signs of behavioral health problems. The 8th grade screening would provide a baseline report for health professionals to review prior to the 11th grade screening, and then treatment would be available as indicated. In addition, all middle school parents should be required to attend a seminar on how to recognize seriously dysfunctional and potentially violent behavior in a child. Finally, The President should have allocated funding that would place one School Resource Officer in every school. In the end, even these proposals would probably meet with Congressional opposition, but at least they are not hollow gestures.

We’ve shed enough gun-related tears over the past two decades. Now it’s time to shed ineffective policies that accomplish nothing but photo opportunities for politicians. No doubt the GOP and the NRA deserve some of the blame for the unchecked massacres that have occurred, but Mr. Obama has failed to use his bully pulpit for anything but spewing bull. !