Last evening, Obama released his new executive order that is designed to prevent exactly zero of any mass shootings in recent, or maybe recorded, history but which will serve as a tool to make life just a little more difficult for any legal purchaser of firearms. The order does significant damage, though. For the first time it is roping the Social Security Administration and health care providers into the business of reporting medical data to the agency that performs background checks.

What does it do? Well, let's roll the tape:

1. Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks. (thse headers are from the White House).

It tries to unilaterally change the definition of a firearm dealer. The definition is not open to interpretation.

The term “dealer” is defined at 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(11)(A) to include any person engaged in the business of selling firearms at wholesale or retail. The term “engaged in the business” as applied to a dealer in firearms means a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms. A dealer can be “engaged in the business” without taking title to the firearms that are sold. However, the term does not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms

The administration is convinced they can change the law:

“ATF will make clear that whether you are ‘engaged in the business’ depends on the facts and circumstances,” [Valerie] Jarrett said. “On factors such as: whether you represent yourself as a dealer, such as making business cards or taking credit card statements. Whether you sell firearms shortly after they’re acquired or whether you buy or sell in the original packaging.”

I'm missing something on this infatuation the administration has about selling guns on the internet is just a diversion. Under the current legal regime a weapon bought on the internet has to be sent to a Federal Firearms License holder who does a background check. A seller, no matter what his volume of sales, can't legally ship a weapon directly to a buyer via an internet or mail order sale.

Loretta Lynch has been told to write to the states and tell them to send adverse information to the FBI's clearing center. He's promised to hire 250 more staff for the FBI's background check center. This last could be good... if Congress appropriates the money.

Verdict: this is mostly a nothingburger but you can guarantee the ATF will be throwing their weight around in some areas and targeting private gun sales. Either Congress will act on this last issue or it will end up in the courts.

2. Make our communities safer from gun violence.

More federal involvement in state gun cases. Hire 200 more ATF agents... subject to Congressional funding. More staff for National Integrated Ballistics Information Network... subject to Congressional funding. Track illegal internet gun sales... which is already happening. Require reporting of weapons lost/stolen in shipment by the originating dealer.

This is the first red flag. Apparently, some number of firearms are lost or stolen in shipment and no one reports them as stolen to law enforcement. I'm assuming they were insured and the insurance carrier was notified, otherwise, I just don't understand this particular business. Anyway, it has always been unclear who has to report to law enforcment, originator or recipient, and how soon this report has to take place.

Under current law, federal firearms dealers and other licensees must report when a gun from their inventory has been lost or stolen. The regulations are ambiguous, however, about who has this responsibility when a gun is lost or stolen in transit. Many lost and stolen guns end up being used in crimes. Over the past five years, an average of 1,333 guns recovered in criminal investigations each year were traced back to a licensee that claimed it never received the gun even though it was never reported lost or stolen either. Today, ATF issued a final rule clarifying that the licensee shipping a gun is responsible for notifying law enforcement upon discovery that it was lost or stolen in transit.

1300 guns a year is obviously not a problem. If they had stopped all those guns from being found in criminal investigations, they would not constitute a rounding error in criminal statistics. The real pressure point here is the term "upon discovery" and how that could be interpreted by ATF to harass a dealer. If the recipient calls when the weapons is scheduled to arrive to say it hasn't, is that "upon discovery?" Well, you don't want to call the cops because the shipment might be late... but if it is lost/stolen then the "upon discovery" clock has obviously started to tick. The opportunity for abuse here is obvious.

3. Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.

Increase mental health treatment funding by $500 million... subject to Congressional appropriation. And a bunch of fail.

The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from possessing a firearm for mental health reasons.

The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing States from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from possessing a gun for specific mental health reasons.

Nothing here is good. Anytime you subject people who need medical care to administrative sanctions you can guess what happens. They don't get treatment. Up until the 1950s a soldier who contracted a "social disease" was subject to being fined and reduced in rank. Guess what happened? During the first years of the AIDS epidemic we had this debate over what to do about people who had the disease? We decided that the best solution was to encourage treatment rather than stigmatize them. If you think you are suffering from depression and receiving disability benefits, getting treatment means you will not be allowed to own a firearm. Some medications that have been linked to suicidal ideations will undoubtedly fall into the same category. The net result will not be a reduction in deaths, it will be people not seeking treatment. If you seek residential treatment for drug/alcohol abuse or mental illness, you will be barred from gun ownership. If you give your doctor any reason to believe you may have a mental illness, your doctor can report you directly to the FBI.

Delivering on its promise to deliver "common sense" gun control, the Obama administration on Monday finalized a rule that enables health care providers to report the names of mentally ill patients to an FBI firearms background check system.

What is missing from the order is any mention of a method for challenging the report or getting yourself removed from the database.

4. Shape the future of gun safety technology.

Safe guns. Stick me in the eye with a knitting needle.

This new executive order does nothing to make anyone more safe. To the contrary, it actually makes us all a lot more insecure. It opens doors for federal apparatchiks to harass legitimate businessmen. It does nothing to deter criminals because that is their nature. Most insidiously, it penalizes people seeking treatment for mental illness.

Obama has no interest in enforcing existing gun laws. As I've reported, in Milwaukee a man convicted of illegally selling 55 weapons received probation. There is nothing in the order that Obama could not have accomplished on his first day in office. The bottom line is that Obama doesn't care about gun control beyond the degree to which he can gain political advantage or as "stray voltage" to divert our attention from something else.

And when Obama sheds tears:

It isn't for black kids gunned down in Chicago and Philadelphia and Los Angeles. It is for telegenic white toddlers in a very white Connecticut town and his tears are not for the children they are for the camera.


Outraged at Obama for this chipping away at our laws and culture? Outraged at the gun nut who wrote this? Either way, visit my archive.