Gun Control

A Gun-Loathing President Weeps Over the Limits to Power in a Gun-Loving Country

There are limits to the government's ability to make the country other than it is, and to force citizens to bend to official will.

|

Earlier this month, President Obama cried on TV while insisting, "But I really want a pony!"

Well, all right. He would have been better off wishing for a pony. He was actually hoping Americans would change their gun-loving ways—a much less attainable goal.

Obama's stage-weeping came in the course of announcing that—all by himself—he was expanding requirements for background checks to "anybody in the business of selling firearms."

What does that mean? Nobody seems to know—not even the White House, whose "fact sheet" concedes that "there is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement." It's all a bit loosey-goosey for the simple reason that, in the United States, the president doesn't get to change laws all by himself.

That fuzziness makes credible Attorney General Loretta Lynch's insistence that the president's executive action is perfectly constitutional. Jonathan Adler of the Case Western University School of Law sort of agrees. Obama's action "has no legal effect" he points out, since if it were "really an expansion of existing regulatory requirements, it would be legally invalid."

Presidents can stand in front of cameras, shed tears, and ask for ponies all they want. We can give them one or not, as we please, and no constitutional concerns apply.

Even The New York Times—which has editorialized for stricter gun laws on its front page—conceded in its coverage that the president's action would have "limited effect." It quoted hobbyists who occasionally sell guns saying they might be quieter about their activities, but showing little interest in otherwise changing their behavior, such as by getting licenses and running sales through government databases.

"If you are engaged in the business of selling firearms, and you know that, and you're knowingly not pursuing a license, this is not going to make you go out and get a license," Mike Sullivan, the former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told the newspaper.

Frankly, Sullivan's comments would apply even if President Obama had convinced Congress to add legislative heft to his policy desires. How, really, is the government going to make individuals who buy and sell firearms out of public view submit to scrutiny that they resist for either pragmatic or principled reasons?

It's "very easy to get around" such restrictions on inherently private transactions, Prof. James Jacobs, Director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University School of Law, told me last summer, even though he believes universal background checks are "probably a good idea."

Residents of New York and Connecticut collectively turned up their noses at registration requirements. Gun control measures have never drawn much in the way of compliance anywhere, no matter the threatened penalties. There is no reason to think that this time will be the exception.

So the president probably won't get that pony.

That pony morphed into something resembling a unicorn later in the president's speech. "If we can set it up so you can't unlock your phone unless you've got the right fingerprint, why can't we do the same thing for our guns?" he asked.

Because when gun owners "consider the frequency with which their $700 smart phone's fingerprint scanner fails when presented with a clean, dry, perfectly-positioned thumb, they rightly conclude that putting any type of electronic lock on their Glock will likely make them less secure, not more," Ars Technica's Jon Stokes responded in a piece published in the Los Angeles Times.

Stokes went on to detail the reliability-threatening battering electronics take in firearms, the ease with which they could be "defeated by anyone with a little time and access to YouTube," and the potential technology offers bad actors for targeting good guys' guns for hacking or theft.

"[E]lectronic locks that are likely to backfire on gun users, and that are vulnerable to exploitation by criminals, will be rejected by the market and, ultimately, by Congress," he warns.

Tellingly, while it's an early implementation of "smart gun" technology, the most widely touted existing effort—the Armatix iP1—raises reviewers' concerns with its "possibility for remote, external neutralization," multiple misfires, and delicate circuitry.

Tinkerers will certainly improve on the Armatix iP1's performance, but they're unlikely to convince Americans with access to roughly 300 million existing firearms designed to suit their taste that they should trade in the guns they already have for Frankenstein composites crafted to satisfy political requirements. A dog isn't a pony and gluing a horn to its forehead won't turn it into a unicorn.

Ultimately, President Obama's public tears are understandable—and not just in the context of the crimes he condemns. After all, cruelty has always been with us, and most people can understand the wish that the world were a nicer place filled with kinder inhabitants. It's inconceivable that an American could reach the White House and assume its powers of life and death without coming to terms with that reality.

No, the president's televised tears are understandable as tears of frustration. For all of his power, there are limits to his, and the government's, ability to make the country other than it is, and to force citizens to bend to official will.

But, if it makes him feel better, he can still have a real pony so long as he pays for it himself and agrees to clean up any messes.

NEXT: Makers of Controversial Planned Parenthood Video Face Possible 20 Years on Felony Charges, Seemingly for Fake I.D.s [UPDATED Regarding Charge and Potential Sentence]

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The Canuck is first!

    1. We have a cry baby pussy for a president.

      WEAK.

      Putin is getting a good laugh.

  2. (And yeah, our gun laws suck…)

    1. What’s so sucky about Canadian gun laws?

      We can legally acquire the vast majority of firearms (common exceptions being full automatic actions, or handguns with

      1. … handguns with a barrel shorter than 4″.

        A firearms Possession and Acquisition License is still easier to qualify for than a driver’s license, if you’ve managed to go 5 years without committing a felony or violent crime.

        And while we can’t legally carry concealed, if we’re doing it right how would anyone even know?

  3. I saw some rumbling that some police dept or other agency had been run up the flagpole as a likely candidate to buy smart guns. This is gonna be pretty funny. Once you start rising through the ranks, the positions become more and more political, until that’s all that the top jobs are — the chiefs, sheriffs, AGs, and so on. How hard are they going to push the troops into accepting smart guns? How hard will the police unions fight back, since they are headed by their own political animals, and will probably rightly fear that too much intransigence will give them a black public eye, not to mention make their political bosses less interested in pushing for big budgets, and ultimately make it harder to get away with killing thousands of civilians every year. Such smart guns will also likely come with built in cameras, making it harder to claim camera defects, or the cop forgot to turn it on, or the car was pointed in the wrong direction …..

    It’s going to be interesting.

    1. Perhaps, if Slick Barry were really sincere (instead of just being eager to disarm the public, with the inevitable victims who could have defended themselves being mere collateral damage in his campaign), he could require the Secret Service to use those smart guns he thinks are so useful.

      1. great idea.

      2. Barry’s secret service carries pistols that are fed by evil high capacity magazines that hold 20 armor piercing rounds, plus PDWs full automatic sub-machine gun of the same caliber. But gunz are evil, y’all….

    2. Law enforcement’s higher ranks are indeed political, but there’s a difference between most police chiefs who tend to be appointed by city governments, and county sheriffs who tend to be directly elected. Note the stories of sheriffs announcing they won’t enforce unenforceable gun laws.

      And yes, gunowners eagerly await law enforcement involvement in “smart gun” technology.

    3. I would LOVE to see cameras mounted on law enforcement guns, and we don’t have to wait till smart guns to mandate this. Camera tech has gotten small enough that a unit could be mounted on a pistol’s dust cover rail (and made roughly the same size as a SureFire X300 light so that existing, affordable holsters for pistols with lights could be used).

      The under-pistol camera would not have terrific battery life, so it would have to automatically turn off when placed in the holster and automatically turn on when drawn (current sensor technology could do this–perhaps RFID proximity sensors or something similar).

      The camera would see exactly what the barrel of the pistol sees, so we the public would be able to tell FOR SURE whether the target was running away when shot.

      For rifles, GoPro Session cameras have already been successfully mounted on ARs and shotguns by civilian competition shooters. A means of automatically turning them on would be enough to make them work–perhaps starting when the officer takes the rifle out of the restraint system or case.

      The biggest impediment is battery charging–making sure the officers remember to charge up their cameras. It would be easy to “forget” to charge it overnight, rendering the camera useless for the whole next day.

      1. no one would ever do that on purpose though, would they?

  4. Section 922(g) of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, passed by congress in 1993, prohibits any person from shipping, transporting, or receiving any firearm if the person:
    * Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
    * Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence;
    * Is subject to a court restraining order for harassment; or,
    * Has been imprisoned for one year or more.

    The Brady bill has been in place for 23 years, and there has never been a challenge to its constitutionality in the supreme court. This is because constitutional rights are revocable from those who break, or are incapable of keeping, the Lockean social contract on which this country was formed:

    http://www.yofiel.com/writing/…..dependence

    Yet so far the gun lobby has launched a blitz campaign claiming the President has violated 2nd-amendment constitutional rights, and one of its cohorts has sued the President and attorney general. Holding the President and attorney general responsible for violations of personal rights when they are actually upholding an approved act of congress is obviously wrong. If there is fault in the Brady bill, then the action should be against the Brady bill, not the President and attorney general. The appropriate response is to sue the NRA and its partners for intentional malfeasance.

    1. If there is fault in the Brady bill, then the action should be against the Brady bill, not the President and attorney general

      How do you sue a bill? You don’t have a clue about how Law works.

      1. You don’t have a clue about how Law works.

        Or how natural rights work.

    2. Just a heads up, there is no reference to Lockean Social contracts in the constitution.

      I’m not saying that you’re wrong in what the President is actually doing at this moment, but you’re wrong. First off, the constitutionality of the Brady bill is debatable, AT BEST. Second, Just because there hasn’t been a challenge, doesn’t mean it’s not wrong, it just means no one has decided to challenge based upon the fact that there are bigger things to worry about.

      In the grand scheme, what the President is doing to “enforce” current law is stupid and is simply an executive order (which can be repealed with another executive order) that says NICS background checks must be done! They’re already done. This is all political theatre, and to say the thing to do is to sue the NRA shows you’re out of touch with the goals and aims of the government and more specifically this administration.

      1. Just a heads up, there is no reference to Lockean Social contracts in the constitution.

        It’s written in invisible ink that only authoritarians can see.

        First off, the constitutionality of the Brady bill is debatable, AT BEST.

        It’s not even debatable. At best, it’s outright unconstitutional.

        1. No no, it was that form the OBGYN handed you in utero, remember?

          1. I remember being conceived. . . but not the Brady form.

            My mom must have had a cigarette while they were having me fill it out.

    3. Good point. I’ll call the Brady Bill this minute and get some answers from it!

    4. This is because constitutional rights are revocable from those who break, or are incapable of keeping, the Lockean social contract on which this country was formed:

      Lockean social contract? You mean the one where people agree to have their rights decided by majority vote? I could have sworn the whole purpose of the Bill of Rights was to prevent some things being decided by a vote.

    5. ernestm|1.26.16 @ 4:16AM|#
      “…Yet so far the gun lobby has launched a blitz campaign..”

      So, ernestm, as a representative of the statist lobby, could you please define ‘the gun lobby’ for us?

      1. My gun lobby is a room full of nice toys on the way into the range.

    6. The court recently ruled to overturn your first concern ” Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution”
      Tyler vs Hillsdale SHeriff’s Department Dec 18th, 2014

      http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/op…..96p-06.pdf

  5. They know the new rules won’t work but they do get to randomly harass members of a group they don’t like. For them that’s a win.

    1. ^This^

      The real goal is to punish his political enemies. If crying fake crocodile tears will help him do that, then here come the water works.

    2. what was it, some 70K NICS checks in 2014 came back indicating the putative buyer had a criminal record and was disqualified… yet had lied on the form a federal felony. ANyone want to guess how many cases were prosecuted? Fewer than 100. And they want MORE BGC’s? How about using the laws already on the books?

      1. passing new laws is a whole lot easier than enforcing existing ones. it’s our own fault (well, not mine, i dont vote) for falling for it, repeatedly.

  6. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.Jobstribune.com

  7. King Obama is pro-choice, he chooses what’s best for you – a mere serf.

    1. Everybody’s gone serfin’, Serfin’ USA

      1. Serfin’ USA

        I see a bumper sticker.

  8. When the President switches his Secret Service detail over to using “smart” guns, then I’ll consider it.

    1. Yeah, I love how the anti-gun crowd are crowing about how “smart guns” are perfectly functional and only objectionable to dangerous rednecks and gun nuts with bad intentions while there isn’t a police force, military body, or private security company who has expressed anything but utter disdain for them.

      1. Rule of thumb: Any “gun safety” law that exempts law enforcement and military isn’t about gun safety.

  9. If Obama wanted a pony he should have voted for Vermin Supreme.

  10. I really do wonder how many on the gun control side believe the “all that needs to be done is defeat the NRA” line?

    For the sake of argument, let’s put aside the 5 million dues-paying members or the millions of non NRA members that choose to contribute to the NRA “round up” program every time they buy a box/case of ammo or a gun part at contributing gun stores.

    The real question is do gun control advocates really believe that out of the low estimates of 80 million to 100 million gun owning Americans, that only 5 million of those gun owners are politically active and have a vested interest in keeping the government from taking their property? Could the numbers be higher (by a factor of 10 or 15)?

    I would say that looking at the overwhelming noncompliance to gun registration and other gun control schemes in NY State, Connecticut, and others, you might have the makings of an answer.

    1. Considering the many questinable things NRA have done in the past few years (endorsing candidates that are truly anti-gun… Harry Reid? Come ONNNN….. ), failing to jump in when significant issues are on the table (where WERE they when Bloomburg was spending his own $millions to buy a rotten law in Washingotn State, and again this past Leg session in Oregon when they passed almost a cookie cutter version of that rotten bill? I won’t join and send them my money until they start doing better at this sort of thing… and yet on their legislative action end of things, they seem to do a half decent job at least half the time. The best thing about them is that anti-gun politicians fear and loathe NRA. And that is a good thing,, NRA are the face and voice of those five millions who are actively concerned about our rights, AND believe the NRA are right most of the time.

  11. Those are crocodile tears if there ever was such a thing.

    Consider this: being audited by the IRS is one of the only situations in the American legal system where the accused has the burden of proving his or her innocence even as the assets he or she would use to hire attorneys are being seized. All this by an unelected government bureaucracy. How can they get away with this?

    Because they’ve got the guns.

    The EPA, an unelected federal bureaucracy, has a criminal enforcement branch. This means that they can arrest people for violating their regulations, which of course includes the possibility that they could use lethal force against someone they find guilty of violating environmental regulations they establish. How does this stand in a supposedly free country founded on popular representation and the consent of the governed?

    Because they’ve got the guns.

    I could go on, because there are many, many more examples.

    Taken in that context, ask yourself why certain people are so interested in limiting the average citizen’s access to firearms.

  12. Here is a practical reason to avoid “smart guns”. I have one of the electric alarm clocks with a small battery in it that is supposed to keep the time running when the power goes out. On Sunday, the power went out for about an hour. Because the battery died, and the clock doesn’t have a battery good sensor, it didn’t keep time during the outage.

    I don’t want that to happen if I need my pistol when I am faced with a life-threatening emergency. Everything electronic is not necessarily the optimal solution.

    1. That’s just because you’re a woman hating racist who wants to see children die in the streets.

    2. So-called “smart gun” technology is a solution in search of a problem. The real reason it’s even a point of conversation is that anti-gun people think it’s a bridgehead towards complete disarmament. It’s not a good idea, and nobody who uses a firearm professionally has shown any real interest whatsoever. Hell, the Armatrix is developed in Germany primarily for target shooting; it shoots .22LR and has a feature that prevents it from being fired at anything other than a paper target: linky.

      The goal is to force gun owners to either admit that one purpose (arguably the primary purpose) of gun ownership is self-defense, which implies shooting and possibly killing someone, or accept gun ownership as solely a hobby or a sport and thereby relinquish our right to use firearms for defensive reasons. If the only legitimate reason to own a gun is to go target shooting, why use anything bigger than a .22? Heck, why not use an air gun? And, come on, is a hobby really such a big deal that you want to make it a Constitutional issue?

      This is why 2A supporters are so dead-set against smart guns and other, similar nonsense.

  13. When they agree to smart government, I’ll consider getting a smart gun.

    1. So, never? I couldn’t agree more!

  14. Presidents can stand in front of cameras, shed tears, and ask for ponies all they want. We can give them one or not, as we please, and no constitutional concerns apply.

    Instead of a pony maybe someone could send him back the several bushels of horse manure he’s dumped on everyone.

  15. Who WOULDN’T want a pony? Why would you move from a pony country to a non-pony country?

    1. …the Right of the People to Keep and Ride Ponies, Shall Not Be Infringed.

      That’s in the BoR, right?

  16. The problem with “universal background checks” is that the gun prohibitionists include handing a weapon to a family member, such as a husband letting his wife use a gun if she needs it at home (as happened in Atlanta in a noted case in December 2012). Indeed, they’d have to go through such a check (in theory) every time a gun changed hands (and pay a considerable sum each time). For gun prohibitionists such as the Obama Gang, the inconvenience and expense are a feature, not a bug.

    1. A feature to be much desired too.

  17. I guess that we, the people should consider ourselves lucky that the president only shed a crocodile tear or two, rather than having a temper tantrum given that he has nuclear armed forces at his command. Of course, they might well have told him, as a Western PA saying goes to “go pound salt”, a situation which might have proven more than a little interesting. Think Obama will ever realize that there is a significant difference between being president of this country, an office to which he was twice elected, and being king or emperor, this with respect to the fact that while the king’s or emperor’s powers might be unlimited, the president’s aren’t.

    1. Out here in Cali, we say, “Go pound sand.”

      Pretty sure they mean the same thing,.

  18. And the added political genius for this far-left White House? They’re not just legislative actions. They’re Republican legislative actions ? since Conngress, after all, is controlled by the GOP.
    Look at what Lynch just told members of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, with a straight face: “The Gun Control Act lists the people who are not allowed to have firearms, such as felons, domestic abusers and others. Congress has also required that background checks be conducted as part of sales made by federally licensed firearms dealers to make sure guns stay out of the wrong hands. ? The actions announced by the president, which focus on background checks and keeping guns out of the wrong hands, are fully consistent with the laws passed by Congress.”
    But if Lynch’s view were to hold true ? and if the president were constitutionally justified in taking any old previously passed law and adding to it as seeing fit — then the door seems wide open to dismiss all the members of Congress and send them home. Who needs them?
    http://www.newswithviews.com/Chumley/cheryl132.htm

    1. Who needs them, indeed.

      Not I, says me.

  19. Dummie doesn’t quite “get it” that the more he loathes guns and tries to force his will upon is, the more HE will be loathed.

    One thing he fails to take into account: BATF already has very clear and well thought rules about who must, and who MAY NOT get licensed as an FFL. The onesie twosie collectors and swappers seen at a typical gun show are in the MAY NOT category. I’ve known a number of them WISH they could get their FFL, but that department’s strict regs and requirements mean they can’t. Can’t run it out of your house or even garage, must be a detached dedicaed structure. Security is an issue, too, can’t be within some certain distance to a school, park, etc (don’t want anyone running in, buying a gun, running back out and shooting a bunch of kids, now… plus you wouldn’t want the little angels to even SEE something as horrid as one of those “assault weapons”, you know, the black and ugly ones with the shoulder thing that goes up? The ones just like they play with on their video games?

  20. Someone needs to tell the kinyun that there IS a huge difference between a smart phone and a firearm. For one thing, the phone has no moving parts, its all solid state. Second the phone does not get the equivalent of being drop kicked a hundred times in an hour, and the phone rarely gets exposed to the elements like guns do. And whenyour phone goes on the fritz, no worries, folks have the warranty, insurance, and Obama to get a new one. And if that doesn’t happen for a few days, well, maybe you’ll whine and cry and tear your hair out, but when the new phone comes all is forgotten and life goes on. When your defensive handgun goes on the fritz, you are likely dead within a few seconds, maybe minutes. Perhaps along with a few others you were trying to protect cause the coppers can’t.

  21. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $100 per hour. I work through this link

    ??
    Click This Link inYour Browser….

    ???????? http://www.WebReport30.Com

  22. The referenced limits are only those of speed and process. “Social change” enhances both.
    What non-shootists conveniently don’t know is that background checks Are virtually universal; and that the intent of this obvious misdirection is really for the purpose of “universal records”. (Including the literal “universal” aspect of providing a federal database to global busy-bodies, i.e. UN agencies.)

  23. My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do..

    Clik This Link inYour Browser….

    ? ? ? ? http://www.Workpost30.Com

  24. Every day I come to work listening to radio. Nearly every day I hear a public service anti gun announce. It is sickening.

    1. PS, the sickening part is my taxes help pay for it.

      1. well youre obviously some kinda republican if you care about your money that much. argument dismissed.

  25. just before I saw the receipt that said $7527 , I accept that my mom in-law woz like actualey making money in there spare time from there pretty old laptop. . there aunt had bean doing this for less than twentey months and at present cleared the depts on there appartment and bourt a great new Citro?n 2CV . look here…….
    Clik This Link inYour Browser.
    ??????? http://www.Jobstribune.com

  26. thank you

    http://ahd-alkhaleej.com/
    well youre obviously some kinda republican if you care about your money that much. argument dismissed.

    1. my roomate’s step-sister makes $68 an hour on the laptop . She has been out of a job for five months but last month her pay was $12476 just working on the laptop for a few hours. read this post here

      ???????? http://www.netjoin10.com

  27. Taken from Johan Douche TuckIll’s website.

    J.D. Tuccille – I’m a writer and editor with an unhealthy interest in tall tales.

    And this screed is nothing more than Tall Tales.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.