FLORIDA, January 10, 2013 — The debate over private gun ownership has taken yet another turn.
Yesterday, Vice President Biden announced that President Obama could push through new firearm regulations via executive order. That bold declaration provoked immediate outrage which hasn’t let up since.
Second Amendment fundamentalists chose to make a big deal out of Biden’s remark. Some seem to believe that if Obama were to issue executive orders on guns, America would be placed under totalitarian rule.
Some people really will believe anything.
Presidents have issued executive orders since 1789. Some, such as the Emancipation Proclamation, have been far-reaching, but most are quite limited in scope. The Supreme Court ruled decades ago that they cannot exceed Constitutional authority or stand in violation of any legislation passed by Congress, and Congress retains the power to overturn executive orders. So, people who believe that the federal government is about to come for their legally owned guns need not worry.
It’s worth asking whether an executive order is the best way to achieve gun control. There’s a strong case to be made for leaving highly contentious policy issues to Congress. However, the House and the Senate are controlled by different parties, and bipartisanship has become a distant memory. Legislative solutions to divisive issues may not be possible in the current climate.
Thus Obama’s best option may be an executive order. Gun violence statistics show that we have a serious problem in this country, even if we can’t agree what the problem is. Something should be done to stop the spread of the most destructive firearms, the weapons that can cause the most devastation in the hands of a deranged killer. If we’ve reached the point that an executive order is the only way of accomplishing this, then Obama shouldn’t shrink from doing it.
The question is not whether serious firearm regulation is needed. We should ask ourselves why so many Americans are firmly against banning even assault weapons. What need does anyone outside of law enforcement or the military have for guns of this power?
Some might want firearms, or even weapons, of all kinds to be sold without restriction, but they are a minority.
Many of us voted for Mitt Romney and want Republicans to dominate the House for years to come, and we support the right of responsible gun ownership. For all that, we don’t share the views of Second Amendment fundamentalists, and it is clear to us that Obama has the desire and the responsibility to help craft reasonable regulations to keep people like Adam Lanza from having access to the means to kill dozens in minutes.
President Obama deserves our full support, even if he has to do what is best through an executive order, or a series of them. Sometimes, leadership requires decisive action. The President should not be faulted for tending to the business of America.
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