Much has already been written about Barack Obama’s most recent chipping away at the Second Amendment, but thus far, all have not touched upon the most important point. This is rather a long article, but I suspect it will be worth the effort. I’ll get to the most important point shortly, but first, some examples from several erudite writers. First, Scott Johnson at Powerline, from a post titled The Tears Of A Clown:
President Obama held a campaign style event before the assembled multitude in the White House late yesterday morning. Obama spoke for 33 minutes. I am posting the complete video below. The White House has posted the text of Obama’s remarks here. Chris Cillizza treats Obama’s remarks like the Gettysburg Address and annotates the text here.
By all means, take the Powerline links, but only if you have a strong stomach.
Obama referred to himself one way or another some 76 times in the course of his 33-minute speech (Cillizza overlooked this aspect of Obama’s remarks) [That’s more than twice a minute—an amaxing accomplishment even for Barack Obama]. In his remarks Obama opposed ‘gun violence.’ He proposed and announced ‘common-sense gun safety reform.
These phrases are standard progressive rhetoric; nothing new there.
Recalling the victims of the Newtown massacre three years ago, Obama let his tears flow. These are “the tears of a clown” (even if they were part of the show rather than “when no one’s around”). The Newtown massacre occurred three years ago. Obama’s emotional display provided a stunning contrast to his neurasthenic speech from the Oval Office in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre when his foremost concern was announcing that ‘ISIL does not speak for Islam. [skip]
Apart from the tears, Obama’s remarks were utterly standard for him. I would translate them as follows:
‘How great I am. How good I am. How much I know. Modest changes in the law would do great good. Yet evil forces are arrayed against me. They hold Congress in its thrall. Congress itself is driven by narrow political considerations. Not me. I am impelled by the true vision of the good that has been vouchsafed to me.
I stand like a colossus above the fray.’
As always, everything is all about Barack Obama and how it affects him—Barack Obama—so that he—Barack Obama—may, by virtue of his superior intellect and morality, affect the change that only Barack Obama is capable of accomplishing.
Quotable quote: ‘Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start. I have said this over and over again — this also becomes routine. There is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do. I believe in the Second Amendment. It is there, written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little bit about this — I get it.
He does indeed “get it,” but only to the point that he is determined to do everything he can to obliterate it. This is, even for a malignant narcissist like Barack Obama, only part of a process of eventual, inevitable progressive triumph.
Providing another unique perspective is Roger Simon at PJ Media:
But buried beneath the tracks of Obama’s tears was something much more significant than his paltry partisan fiddling with the gun laws. Take a look at the following excerpt from his speech and let’s play the old Sesame Street game, ‘Some of these things are not like the others.’
‘Fort Hood, Binghamton, Aurora, Oak Creek, Newtown, the Navy Yard, Santa Barbara, Charleston, San Bernardino. Too many,’ Obama said, ticking through a list of mass shootings since the 2011 Tucson shooting that killed six and injured more than a dozen more, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was in attendance in the East Room.
No doubt you got it in one. Two of those mass shootings (Fort Hood and San Bernardino) were perpetrated by jihadis motivated by fundamentalist Islamic ideology — while the others (not all very mass) were the work of common criminals and/or (to be blunt) nutcases.
Why is this important? It should be obvious that gun control legislation of any sort is absolutely irrelevant to jihadis. As has been demonstrated, they have had no trouble getting arms even in societies like Canada, Australia and France where the gun laws are far more stringent than ours. Indeed, they are able to obtain weapons of all sorts all across the globe. (Of course, criminals in general don’t have much trouble getting guns, but jihadis have a world-wide network of the sympathetic at their disposal.)
And yet the president persists in lumping the jihadis together with the nut cases and criminals in the other shootings. His reason couldn’t be more obvious. He cannot stand to acknowledge the Islamic basis of terrorism. This is another case where he will do anything in his power to equalize it with other criminal or insane acts, make it banal. It cannot be the work — organized or not — of a highly evolved and specific seventh century ideology. Even in the midst of proposing his morally narcissistic gun control regulations he cannot resist trying to transform jihadism into a simple common crime…
Simon believes this juxtaposition of Islam with common criminals is a contemporary calculation, a purposeful distraction of the public from the never-ending danger of jihadist attack. Perhaps so, but it is, much more importantly, part and parcel of progressive faith that leads to a very specific goal beyond downplaying the civilizational terrorist threat. Yes, Barack Obama and those with whom he has surrounded himself think that way every day. They care far more for the sensibilities of Muslims, even jihadists, than they do the rights of honest Americans. But again, that’s not quite the point.
The invaluable Andrew Branca, at Legal Insurrection, also makes important points:
Obama can once again lay credible claim to the title of ‘Best Gun Salesman Ever.’
His recently announced policy changes on guns not only do nothing to discourage gun purchases, they if anything facilitate even greater volumes of gun sales, and in particular machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles/shotguns, and other highly controlled “NFA” items. The ATF guidance purported to close the “gun show loophole” (spoiler: it doesn’t, because there isn’t such a thing) and the ATF policy “change” on NFA items are both embedded at the bottom of this post. Warning: Like Obama himself, both documents are extremely wordy and with little real-world effect.
If you’re interested, by all means, take the link and read the ATF policy documents. You should also read all of the articles to which I’m linking here. And what effect has Mr. Obama had on gun sales?
This is entirely consistent with Obama’s actual effect on gun sales over both of his terms, during which sales have skyrocketed compared to prior administrations. The past 7 years of the Obama administration constitute only 40% of the time the modern NICS system has been in place, but nearly 60% of all NICS checks run.
Yesterday the ATF reported that it had conducted more than 23 million NICS background checks in 2015. That means in 2015 there were on average 44 NICS checks run every minute of the year. EVERY. MINUTE. [skip]
In December 2015 alone, with Obama making great sound and fury about his planned ‘executive orders’ on guns, more than 3.3 million NICS checks were run. 3.3 MILLION.
To put that in context, the US has about 1.4 million active service military personnel. Conservatively assuming that each NICS check corresponds to a single firearm (but see below), that means sales of firearms to private American citizens in the month of December alone could have fully re-equipped every person actively serving in the US military with a firearm. TWICE. And still leave 500,000 additional guns unallocated.
If anything, in fact, the number of NICS checks grossly underestimates the number of guns being purchase. In many states, a valid concealed carry permit is accepted in lieu of a NICS check for gun purchasing purposes, the permit itself having required a background check. In addition, a single NICS check is valid for the purchase of multiple firearms, not just one. Finally, no NICS check is required (in most states) for a private sale between two individuals not “engaged in business,” and Obama’s new policy does nothing to change this.
American’s reaction to Mr. Obama’s threat to the Second Amendment is heartening, and Progressives rightly recognize it as a danger to their ambitions, but it simultaneously strengthens their resolve to never quit, and to use every opportunity to attack liberty.
One other interesting point: the media and progressives are forever suggesting that they must have more and “universal” background checks because of “internet sales.” The suggestion that one can buy guns on the Internet and thereby avoid a federal background check is entirely false. In such cases, the Internet dealer must transfer a gun to another dealer near the buyer, who will complete the transfer, fill out and keep all paperwork, and conduct the required background check. Local dealers normally charge a fee for such transfers.
So, with Obama’s amazing gun-selling chops as background, what policy changes were actually implemented by Obama’s “Executive Order” yesterday? Absolutely none.
First, it must be noted that what was issued yesterday was not, in fact, an ‘executive order’ by the President, but merely an ‘executive guidance’ by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE). The portion of the policy change related to the ‘gun show loophole’ states explicitly on its second page: ‘The guidance set forth herein has no regulatory effect …’
Second, much of the proposed ‘policy changes’ are simply re-statements of the law as it currently existed. [skip]
After Obama’s policy “change”? Exactly the same rules apply. Zero change.
Third, Obama proposed changes actually will make easier the sale of such NFA-controlled items such as machine guns, suppressors, and short-barreled rifles/shotguns than they have been in the past. Prior to yesterday, such sales required sign-off by a local law enforcement officer. [skip]
After Obama’s policy change? Buyers of NFA items now merely need to notify local law enforcement of the transfer, not obtain their approval.
Fourth, Obama’s proposed changes promise to make the NICS check system more efficient. In recent times it has become not uncommon for the NICS check to backlog badly during periods of high-volume buying.
Of course, this also has the effect of increasing the unaccountable and eternal federal workforce even more.
Fifth, Obama’s proposed changes include ‘budgeting’ (but, notably, not actual ‘money’) for several gun-control favored initiatives already proven to be costly failures. One of these is for a National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN). Just such a system was tried by Maryland for 15 years, costing state taxpayers over $5 million, and was never decisive in solving even a single crime. Maryland finally abandoned the system last year. [skip]
Sixth, Obama proposes some $500 million for mental illness efforts. Ironically, this is an initiative that has been called for as much by Republicans who disfavor increased restrictions on lawful gun ownership as by those who favor gun control.
Branca is correct that there are no substantive changes in actual law, but the devil is in the details, in the way the ATF interprets its powers, and in the way the Department of Justice decides to enforce the law. An ATF already happy to run guns to Mexican cartels as part of Obama administration policy will be more than happy to arrest citizens for dealing in firearms even though the law doesn’t reflect their interpretation. The DOJ will be more than happy to prosecute such people. After all, AG Lynch noted that prosecution of a single sale was possible. The government may eventually lose if they happen to draw an honest judge, but what does that matter? They’ll suffer nothing for it, and the process is the punishment for the law-abiding gun owner who will have to spend their life savings, and perhaps lose several years of life due to the stress of defending themselves. And with a little luck, other law-abiding gun owners will self-censor, so to speak, and avoid fully exercising their liberties.
Here are several other important notes from my friend Bob Owens at the always excellent Bearing Arms (full disclosure: from time to time, Bob publishes my wretched scribblings):
Ensure States are providing records to the background check system, and work cooperatively with jurisdictions to improve reporting. Congress has prohibited specific categories of people from buying guns—from convicted felons to users of illegal drugs to individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. In the wake of the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, Congress also created incentives for States to make as many relevant records as possible accessible to NICS. Over the past three years, States have increased the number of records they make accessible by nearly 70 percent. To further encourage this reporting, the Attorney General has written a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified for mental health reasons, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence. The Administration will begin a new dialogue with States to ensure the background check system is as robust as possible, which is a public safety imperative.
Letters are nice, but funding is the problem. If Obama was serious about getting more information into NICS databases he would find a way to increase funding to the states so they can hire more people to upload the data.
Here’s an idea: maybe he could find the funding if he stopped importing and supporting thousands of unvetted foreign refugees containing dozens of hidden ISIS terrorists, or providing billions of dollars in aid to nations that hate us.
Crazy, right? [skip]
Include information from the Social Security Administration in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm. Current law prohibits individuals from buying a gun if, because of a mental health issue, they are either a danger to themselves or others or are unable to manage their own affairs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NICS. The reporting that SSA, in consultation with the Department of Justice, is expected to require will cover appropriate records of the approximately 75,000 people each year who have a documented mental health issue, receive disability benefits, and are unable to manage those benefits because of their mental impairment, or who have been found by a state or federal court to be legally incompetent. The rulemaking will also provide a mechanism for people to seek relief from the federal prohibition on possessing a firearm for reasons related to mental health.
If we were only talking about people with advanced dementia who were seeing ghosts and could be considered a legitimate threat to themselves or others, then that would potentially be a good move… but that’s not what this is.
Obama is casting his net as wide as possible to ensnare folks who have short-term memory loss issues, who are recovering from strokes, etc. If, for any reason, you cannot “manage your own affairs” on even a temporary basis, a faceless government bureaucrat can strip you of your constitutional rights under this despicable plot.
This isn’t just spiteful, it’s abusive.
Trust us, we’re from the government. [skip]
Deprive the elderly and vulnerable of protection without due process of law? This is different from life under a tyranny how, exactly?
Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to take two important steps to promote smart gun technology.
Increase research and development efforts. The Presidential Memorandum directs the departments 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. Within 90 days, these agencies must prepare a report outlining a research-and-development strategy designed to expedite the real-world deployment of such technology for use in practice.
Promote the use and acquisition of new technology. The Presidential Memorandum also directs the departments to review the availability of smart gun technology on a regular basis, and to explore potential ways to further its use and development to more broadly improve gun safety. In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.
We’ve been looking at ‘smart gun’ technologies for more than six decades.
In each and every instance, we circle back to the same inescapable reality that adding needless complexity to weapons will cause them to fail and cost the lives of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, along with police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and federal agents.
These technologies are incredibly fragile novelties, unfit for use in military, law enforcement, or civilians contexts outside of tinkering and amusement. We know this. We’ve known this.
Forcing the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to use and acquire these infant technologies will get good people killed.
But it makes tyrants happy.
Ultimately, this is not a battle over the arcane wording of specific statutes. This is a battle of philosophy, a battle for the very nature of western civilization. It is a battle between conservatism and progressivism, the rule of law vs. social justice.
Conservatives do not believe mankind to be perfectible, therefore they do their best to improve things piecemeal, here and there. They do not try to create a paradise on Earth where all men are equal in outcomes, because they know that’s impossible, and more, it’s destructive not only to the individual, but to society. They know evil exists, and do their best, not only to combat evil, but to be good.
Progressives are entirely different animals, and that’s an important understanding in this debate. the Democrat Party is entirely under the sway of Progressive ideology. One virtually never hears about “Blue Dog” Democrats anymore. These conservative Democrats exist, but have virtually no power within the Democrat Party.
Progressives believe certain men—enlightened progressives—are perfect, and the rest, while they can never be as enlightened, can be made to behave appropriately given the proper laws and benevolent guidance of the self-imagined elite. They exist to create this socialist/communist paradise, where all are equal in outcome regardless of their abilities and willingness to work to improve their condition. For the Progressive, evil exists only in resistance to progressive ideology and to the good and pure intentions of advanced, elite progressives.
Therefore, as we saw in Mr. Obama’s lachrymose display, he is virtue personified, and any that do not appreciate his goodness and desire to ignore and diminish the Constitution for such good and moral purposes is by definition, evil. Progressives need not labor to be good, they are, by nature, good.
But most of all, Progressives, like Chinese Communists, take the long view of history. Every Progressive President, every Progressive in high federal position, walks in intellectual lockstep with every other. Every Progressive POTUS will always do their best to destroy the Second Amendment, or to at least, render it a right with no application in individual lives. They know, to a man and woman, that Progressive utopia can never be realized as long as individual Americans are allowed to keep and bear arms.
Occasionally, a Progressive like Diane Feinstein will be sufficiently indiscreet to admit that Progressives would seize every gun in America if they could. Recently, Progressives have begun admitting that their gun control proposals will not improve public safety or prevent crimes—just as President Obama did in his teary address—but moments like that pass in a flash and are covered with voluminous moralizing. They know their proposals will do nothing for safety or crime prevention, but for them, the end always justifies the means.
Progressives need not strategize or discuss furthering this liberty-destroying goal. It is a part of their DNA. Every Progressive leaving the Oval Office can be certain their Progressive replacement will think and do as they have done. Progressives have absolute faith that one day, they will prevail and seize every gun owned by the law abiding. But until that glorious day, that triumph of the people’s will, they will work, incrementally, to accomplish that goal. As Branca and Owens suggest, these measures amount to relatively little, and will be effective in denying or destroying liberty only as applied to non-criminal gun owners, and perhaps, in whatever effect they might have on preventing the honest from selling guns to other honest people.
For Progressives, however, anything that might harry their enemies (any American opposing them and their ideology, not Islamists or any other sworn enemies of America) establish an anti-gun, anti-liberty precedent, anything that might make a harsher, more effective restriction more easily possible in the future, is always worth doing. Step by step, restriction by restriction achieved by relentless striving toward the goal, tactically retreating when necessary, but always looking to the long view.
This is why Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both touting gun control. To be sure, it is a distraction from Mr. Obama’s horrific failure of foreign policy, it helps energize the progressive base, and helps Hillary against Bernie Sanders, and might even help her with the base in a general election. Even if it doesn’t, if elected, Progressives can be certain of her intentions.
A Republican controlled Congress would likely resist any gun control plans. No problem. There’s always a continuing incremental approach, building on the precedence of Mr. Obama’s lawlessness and Republican fecklessness in countering a Democrat president. A Democrat controlled congress with Hillary in the White House might not spell the immediate doom of the Second Amendment, but it would accelerate the imposition of “common sense gun safety” measures. But that’s not the grand goal to which Progressives are working, only the process.
Progressives have been working on multiple tracks for decades. That’s how Obamacare was passed, and how it has, for now, remained afloat. The next president will almost certainly appoint two or three Supreme Court justices. Progressives can count on Republican weakness in resisting Progressive appointees. Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan swore their fealty to the Second Amendment during their confirmation hearings, and were easily confirmed, but voted against liberty on the Heller and McDonald decisions. Adding even one progressive justice to the Court will spell the practical end of the Second Amendment, rendering it a right on paper only.
Barack Obama often claims his opponents are on the wrong side of history. He, and all Progressives, believe that Progressivism will inevitably triumph and establish utopia. They take the long view, and they never give up. Obamacare took a century to establish, vindicating their belief in the long view. They also believe they’re on the right side of history because the victors write it, and they’re going to keep pushing, one regulation change, one executive order, one amendment, one law, one Supreme Court Justice, one Supreme Court decision, as long as it takes to win.