Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Does President Obama Want to do About Guns?

There is a lot of FUD, fear, uncertainty, and doubt, flying around out there about what the Democrats are going to do to restrict gun rights. One Democrat in particular, President Obama, has at least laid out his agenda on the White House web site. Under the Urban Policy Section we find this:

Address Gun Violence in Cities: Obama and Biden would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.
Lets break this apart point by point:

"would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment"

I have not delved into the intricacies of this issue, and a quick check seems to bring up contradictory views from both the NRA, and from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, so I won't comment on this further, except to say that any responsible gun owner should not be against preventing illegal access to firearms.

"favor commonsense measures"

Until we see more, it is impossible to say what "commonsense measures" are, except for the specific proposals in this policy. Possible laws might be microstamping requirements, ammunition serializing, and increased regulation of ammunition sales.

"support closing the gun show loophole"

I took me a long time for understand what this issue was, because in California the so-called gun show loophole has already been closed. What this means is that Obama wants are gun transfers to require a background check of the recipient, even for private party transfers.

"and making guns in this country childproof"

I can foresee two possible results from this. Short term this might inspire a national safe storage law to prevent child access. Long term this might cause a requirement that only owner-authorized handguns be sold.

There are two problems with these measures. First, the Heller decision makes draconian storage laws unconstitutional, and just recently Heller was cited by the defense in a case involving handgun storage which resulted in charges being dismissed. I read about it at Chaos in Motion. Second, owner-authorized handgun technology is not even close to being ready for production, and may never actually be used in products for liability reasons, as explained Owner Authorized Handguns: A Workshop Summary.

"support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent"

Good luck with that, because it requires legislation from Congress, and at the moment Congress does not want to touch gun control issues. Additionally, 65 Democrats are on record opposing a renewed assault weapon ban. And finally, an assault weapon ban would be federal law, meaning that it would have to pass constitution muster, thanks to the Heller decision. It is possible that an assault weapon ban would be found unconstitutional because the 2nd Amendment has been found to protect the right to own firearms that "are in common use at the time", and there is a pretty good case to be made that nationally, AK-47 and AR-15 rifles are in common use.

So, even though there is a lot of fear about increased gun legislation, Obama's policy goals do not seem to have a realistic chance of becomming law. Between political factors and legal reality, the traditional tools of gun control seem limited. They, the anti-gun advocates, are going to have to think of something else to attain their goals.

1 comment:

robertloza said...

An almost reasonable analysis of the Obama position on gun ownership. I am almost reassured that a reasonable debate on America's gun-issue can take place, except for the following concept: nowhere in any of Obama's rhetoric or policy-speak is there a suggestion that our guns will be taken away, as the 'NRA' and right-wing faction of this nation are constantly telling us. Why will this never happen? I am a supporter of Obama, also what some of you would call a 'liberal'. I own three firearms, one of them is a beautiful nickel-plate .357 that would blow the head off any jerk entering my house. People like me are not going to give up these guns for any reason. What Obama's policy addresses, by and large, is the problem with who has the freedom to buy a gun any old time they want to. I don't know about you, but in a country the size of the USA, filled as it is with a significant number of idiots, morons and lunatics, I fully support some 'common sense' controls. As for the assault - rifle ban, I'm sure you can get one of you wanted to, and why didn't you stock up when they were legal? Talk to your cousin the cop, and he might have a different idea than you. So let's remember that what we're really discussing here is the 'paranoia' that someone is literally taking away your guns, and the fact that the last four Administrations have not had, in the end, very different positions on this issue. So keep up the 'intelligent' discussion, but let's also remember that it's irrelevant.