I have been reviewing the List of 23 Executive Actions the president announced in his press conference yesterday. As a gun owner, and staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment I was surprised he did not go further. There were additional actions that were within his power, actions he chose not to take. Don’t get me wrong, I am not naïve – he did announce his plan to push Congress to ban so called “Assault Weapons”, high capacity magazines, etc. So, this is not over, these Executive actions are not the end of the story. Hopefully the 113th Congress will be as inept at pushing gun legislation through as the 112th Congress was in negotiating the debt ceiling and the “fiscal cliff.”
After really looking into each action, and trying to understand what it was saying on its own, a larger picture did form. I do think these actions are “Big Brother” taking one large step forward. When we visit the doctor for the flu, we will be asked if we have a gun. If we say “yes” it will be entered into our medical record. In order for mental health issues to be used in a background check, there will have to be a connection made to pull that mental health info into NICS so it is available for a background check. Eventually, a box will be checked in our electronic medical records, does the patient own a gun, Yes or no. Because the connection will already have been made to pull the mental data in, they will be able to easily pull data on the admitted gun owners. Remember, they will be able to get this information from your children during their check-ups as well. Maybe this information will never be used for nefarious reasons. Does that “hope” make you sleep better?
My opinion and analysis on the 23 “Executive Actions” are as follows:
1. “Issue a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.”
- Within this memorandum, the President is going to attempt to link information from many or all Federal Agencies, and then use it against you if you want to buy a gun. This did not really hit me until I read the memorandum and what that means. They are going to have the Attorney General, Eric Holder chair a NICS working group that includes representatives from the Departments of Defense; Health and Human Services; Transportation; Veteran Affairs; Office of Personnel Management; Office of Management and Budget; and such other agencies or offices as the Chair may designate.
I am in the military, I drive a car, when I retire, I will get some portion of my health care through the VA. Does this mean, something a person does when they are 18 years old in the military will affect them when they are 52 years old, wanting to buy a gun?
This could very well link military records, health records, VA records, driving records, travel records (TSA), it could tell them that I flew with a gun, where I went with it, etc. If you are found to have been reckless with a car at some point, would that prohibit you from buying a gun?
2. “Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.” Read the HIPAA Privacy Rules Summary here and you can read the entire Federal Regulations for the HIPAA Rules here.
- According to the HIPAA summary document, HIPAA was designed to “assure that individuals’ health information is protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well being.” This means they do protect individuals’ identifiable info, while sharing info to protect others.
I assume that the legal barriers identified here, mean that mental issues will be shared and linked with NICS for background checks. I suspect that eventually, the information about who does and does not have a gun will also be linked. Even if a national gun registration is never approved, that will not matter. Most Americans are good honest people and trust Nurses and Doctors without questions. (I am not saying you should not trust a Dr.) I am saying that the information they collect will no longer remain private. Most people will willingly share their most intimate details with a doctor, and when the question about gun ownership is asked – they will simply answer it. Voila! A national gun registry (of sorts) is born – just like that.
3. “Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.”
- This is going to be the ole’ “Carrot on a stick” for the states. If you want additional federal funding for health care, for schools, for roads – who knows, the state will have to agree to share their information. This is just one more piece of privacy down the drain.
“If it saves the life of just one child…” ~President Obama
4. “Direct the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.”
- Every time The Honorable Eric Holder is mentioned in these actions, it gives me pause. Given the issues of the guns lost south of the border, I think he let more than a few dangerous people slip through the cracks on his watch already.
5. “Propose rule giving law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.”
- This is not really different than requiring a background check to buy a gun. If you bought a gun ten years ago, then it was seized for some reason, you would need a new background check to get your gun back. I have a feeling that very few of these people would ever get their guns back. What ever caused the gun to be seized could be a disqualifying factor. I think this would apply if your guns were stolen as well. If the cops found your guns that you had lawfully owned for 10 years, then they were stolen, if all the newly linked info popped a red flag, you might be denied your weapons back.
6. “Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.”
- This is a letter all gun dealers would receive, telling them how to run a background check for private party sales. I am sure the gun dealers can charge a fee for this service, and may be able to make a profit on it. Will that profit be enough to make it worth their time? I doubt that. I will say, if you do sell a gun from one private party to another, if you don’t have the person you are selling it to get a background check, and you sell it to them anyway, and they subsequently commit any type of gun crime, and the gun is traced back to you – I am sure you will be charged with a crime yourself.
7. “Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.”
- I am ok with this, as long as the talking points of the campaign are written by someone who actually knows what they are talking about. The only concern I have is that the commercials and other marketing materials will have to be paid for someway. Maybe they can use some of the funding they have earmarked for the war on drugs, that campaign is not doing much good anyway. Or even better – they can take the money they are spending for the First Lady to tell us how to feed our children.
8. “Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).”
- What is this saying? Review the safety standards? So, the Obama administration is going to have someone, or a maybe a group, review the standards to which industry builds safes and locks for guns. This will cost man hours, so it will require funding. Also, after they review them, what will they do next? This action is really a non-action, just a tax sponge.
9. “Issue a presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.”
- I am ok with Law Enforcement tracing where a weapon came from when it is recovered in a criminal investigation. By Law Enforcement, I do meant the Police, the sheriff, military police, the FBI, and I guess the CIA. I think that Border Patrol would be ok as well. (This is the Lil Chantilly definition of Law Enforcement)
You might be interested to know that this memo says Federal Law Enforcement Agencies will immediately begin to submit trace requests through the ATF, starting the date of the memo (January 16, 2013).
You might be MORE interested to know “Federal law enforcement agencies” were defined as Departments of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, and such other agencies and offices that regularly recover firearms in the course of their criminal investigations as the President may designate. This was too much – WAY too much.
10. “Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.”
- I am ok with this, I do know people who have had guns stolen, maybe they will get their guns back. I wonder if this report includes guns “lost” south of the border?
11. “Nominate an ATF director.”
- I can’t believe this was even included on this list. He is going to nominate B. Todd Jones as the next director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Ok – one action done. He should have added, “brush teeth before bed” to the list.
12. “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.”
- This is ok, it needs to be funded, and the training needs to be provided by people who know what they are talking about.
13. “Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.”
- I have no idea what this means, way too broad statement with no way to measure it’s success. This is not an action, it is a wish.
14. “Issue a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”
- The President authorizes the Center for Disease Control to begin assessing existing strategies for preventing gun violence and identifying the most pressing research questions, with the greatest potential public health impact. He was not able to give them funding to do so. With in his “plan” he asks Congress to approve $10 million dollars for this research. Maybe the CDC has extra people, already funded who can take this on. If not, this is also not an action – it is dependent on Congress to fund it.
15. “Direct the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.”
- Ah Ha! Now we know, after the review listed in action #8 happens, Eric Holder will issue a report on safety technology and “Challenge” the gun safe and lock industry to make their products even better! “I double-dog dare you”, he will say, “make this safe stronger!”
16. “Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.”
- Hospitals and clinics will receive a “reminder” letter that they are allowed to ask if guns are in your house. I am sure that the CDC will analyze the gathered information with their new funding to research gun violence. They will make odd correlations between guns and other things. If many single women, or even single mothers have guns (the great equalizer), a correlation will be made that women who have guns have a high divorce rate, or women who have guns don’t get married.
I will either lie when I am asked this question, or I will refrain from answering. I do believe that those who refrain from answering will be assumed to have a gun, so I will probably just say no. I will train my children to say “I don’t know.” There is no way I am going to tell some random medical person if I have a gun so that it can then be entered into some national database, or become part of my medical record. No way!
17. “Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.”
- So many of us in the gun community have been saying things like, look at the mental issues, not guns if you want to stop these mass shootings. I see this action, and I have to ask myself, how serious do I want them to look at the mental side of things when it comes to mass shootings? The Aurora Shooter did tell his Psychiatrist about his violent thoughts, and as I understand, she did report it to some degree. Would I have been ok with her screaming about that man at the top of her lungs that he wanted to hurt people? Yes – most certainly. For me, I am going to need this one to be more defined. If a dad has a bad day, and loses his temper – then tells the marriage counselor, “I could just kill my wife for painting the living room mint green!” If the counselor reports him, does he lose his guns?
18. “Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.”
- The way this is worded in the more descriptive document is that school boards could decide for themselves if they want more counselors to assess mental health, or if they want armed guards. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2009-2010, there were 98,817 elementary and secondary public schools in the United States. In the Presidents own paper, he said he would hire about 1,000 resources officers for schools. This is about 20 per state, and .01 new resource officers for each public school. In other words, this meant absolutely nothing. This was just like a big warm Presidential hug to the grandma sitting in front of her home just smashed by a tornado. It looks nice for TV, but in the long run will do nothing.
19. “Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.”
- I am sure this one will be used in conjunction with #12. I am ok with this, as long as it is developed by people with the right knowledge and then posted online where it is easily downloaded and shared.
20. “Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.”
- Hey, if they cover everything else – they might as well cover this. I personally think that mentally ill men should be given very high priority for treatment and for coverage in general.
21. “Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.”
- I am not sure what this means, but it sounds a lot like something that strengthens Obama Care, without clarification as to how it will improve mental health services.
22. “Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.”
- Maybe #22 is what I was looking for in #21, couldn’t they have just combined these two?
23. “Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.”
- The president wants this discussion to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness that prevents many individuals from seeking treatment. How are they going to do this while also tying mental health to the background checks. That is going to be tricky, I see a lot of backlash. I know we do want people that are mentally disturbed enough to kill 20 first graders to see help, and have their gun rights removed but this is one area where a government could very quickly overstep their bounds. All of these mental health actions need to have very carefully defined limits.
I am most concerned about the privacy concerns and where the lines will be drawn for these efforts. I will have more to say in the following days and weeks as this plays out. Tonight, this was my first cut to help you start understanding what happened yesterday.
What do you think? Do any of these bug you more than others? Do you like any of them? Do you have specific knowledge in one of the areas covered? Feel free to educate us further!
Tracing of Firearms in Connection with Criminal Investigations
Engaging in Public Health Research on the Causes and Prevention of Gun Violence
Improving Availability of Relevant Executive Branch Records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
The President’s Plan to Protect Our Children: