Administration overreaches on gun control

President Barack Obama today announced a package of gun-control measures aimed at stopping violence of the kind that took place last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The only problem? The president’s proposed list of reforms would not have stopped the tragedy, even if it had been in place last month.

There are some worthwhile things in the president’s package, items that don’t implicate the Second Amendment’s right to own firearms. For example, the president wants to extend background checks to all gun sales, including those that take place at gun shows. (I wrote recently that such a plan could pass Congress, and likely win support of reasonable gun-rights supporters.)

But there are some objectionable things, too: A ban on “military-style assault weapons” of the type used in the Sandy Hook shooting. (The weapon used to kill 26 people was a Bushmaster-made AR-15 style rifle modeled on the U.S. military’s M-16. But unlike the M-16, which is fully automatic, the AR-15 is semi-automatic. Possession of fully automatic weapons — which fire rounds as long as the trigger is depressed — is highly regulated.)

The president’s plan also calls for banning ammunition magazines that contain more than 10 rounds, presumably for all weapons, including handguns.

Assault-weapons bans have mostly been challenged in state courts, which leaves open the question of whether federal courts would uphold the concept. A recent piece in Politico quotes an expert saying the laws would be upheld, based on remarks included in previous rulings.  Handgun bans were struck down because the weapons were in “common use,” the court said, which is not the case with other kinds weapons.

But the fact is, semi-automatic rifles are in common use — they’re one of the most popular weapons in America today. And the standard set in the seminal 1939 U.S. v. Miller case was to question whether weapons were in common use in the armed forces. Under that standard, civilians should be allowed to possess fully automatic M-16 and M-4 rifles, among other goodies.

The bottom line, however, is this: The weapons used in the Sandy Hook massacre were purchased legally, their magazines were purchased legally and the ammunition used was purchased legally. A ban on weapons now would not have prevented the shooting, just as it will not prevent the abuse of any of the millions of semi-automatic riles that are already in private hands. The law may make it marginally more difficult to obtain such a weapon, and it will undoubtedly increase the black market for them.

But ending gun violence? That’s just not something we can do with a law.

Finally, a word about this video produced by the NRA:

Why would the president’s kids need protection from armed guards while regular kids wouldn’t? Well, for one thing, most schoolchildren are not in danger of being kidnapped in order to force their father to call the prime minister of Israel to spring some Hamas no-goodniks from jail. So, there’s that…



15 Responses to “Administration overreaches on gun control”

  1. Steve says:

    You certainly know your gun law. Only 2 ways to legally obtain a fully automatic weapon. From someone in state, or become a manufacturer.
    But they are NOT banned as many say. I believe it would be difficult to pass a constitutional law that would ban these from ownership so they make them almost impossible to obtain legally.
    what bothers me is how the NRA is handling this. I hope they have not become lethargic in their old age. The replacement, should the NRA fail, could make things way worse.
    Could even become black market. Remember all those illegal guns that showed up during the Russian revolution?

  2. Rob says:

    The only way to stop this is remove the assault rifles like in Australia. $500 each would be a fair price. All this focus on mental health is going to get out of hand.

  3. Mr Ed says:

    fully automatic are available if you pay the money (Reagon signed a Bill making them harder to get.)

    Ban the 32 oz soda and people will drink 2 16 o ones. People will start practicing exchanging 10 round clips (which do not jam as much and are easier to carry. Bullet sprayers are not as dangerous as trained sharp shooters. Gun bill (which won’t pass) would just creat more proficient marksmen with bigger calibers>

    Are NBC msnbc arms dealers?

  4. ColinFromLasVegas says:

    Okay, Mr. Sebelius, according to your logic, the wording of what the President has outlined is flawed, so therefore we should…just do nothing.

    Also, according to your logic, past court cases being your guide post, they failed before, they will fail again, then we should….just do nothing.

    According to Mr. Sebelius, it is a waste of time to pursue anything. So, therefore, let’s just not do anything.

    Congress is now called upon to enact legislation. To at least act like they are doing something. They NEED to do something. Why? Because one of their own was the victim of a senseless and mindless gun violence massacre (Giffords). During that occurrence in Tucson, the perpetrator was trying to reload with another extended magazine clip, so that he could blow away more innocents. Thank God someone tackled him.

    And, let me remind you that at the Sandy Hook incident, twenty, COUNT THEM, TWENTY young children, who are only guilty of trying to go to so school and learn something, and were told they were always safe at school…got blown away. According to the sketchy details released, each and every one of those child received anywhere from three to eleven bullets riddled into their bodies.

    But according to Mr. Sebelius, I guess we should just….do nothing. Because it’s too hard to enact legislation. It’s an uphill slope. So, with that reasoning, we just don’t fucking try at all.


    The American people want things to happen.

    I have looked at the 23 things President Obama came up with. I don’t see one of those points he outlined as unreasonable.

    And I’m very sure, based on the past things this President has done, he is not going to go absolutely nutball and call for the enactment of unreasonable and un-Constitutional law.

    I kind of get what you are trying to say, Mr. Sebelius, but what I’m trying to say is that great people do great things. And when there is a problem that really seems to be insurmountable, great people don’t just shrug their shoulders, walk away and just say fuck it.

    This President has seen a problem and he has declared enough is enough.

    I for one agree with him.

    And I am pretty sure the Founding Fathers of this great nation didn’t have this shit in mind when they enacted Second Amendment laws and created this country that we love. If they did, then Sharron Angle was right and she was well within her rights to institute “Second Amendment remedies.”

    We put an end to nonsensical rhetoric that gets us nowhere.

    The status quo CANNOT and WILL NO remain like it is.

    It needs to change.

    We fix this shit.

    And we fix it now.

  5. Candice says:

    I agree with everything Colin from Las Vegas said. What comes to mind each and every time a column espouses “It won’t work”, is the very same question; “Then we do nothing?”. Laws have been enacted throughout history, specific to the time in which they existed. Some withstand the test of time and some are just outdtaed and wrong in light of current circumstances. That we hold fast to gun laws enacted when fewer arms were available and less atrocities were committed, is repellent.

  6. You miss my point, Colin. “It won’t work,” is only the practical argument against the president’s suggestion. “It will violate the Bill of Rights,” is the primary argument against it. Far from arguing that we can do nothing, my argument is this: IF you want to do something, and IF that something is to ban weapons in common military use from the hands of private able-bodied people capable of acting in concert for the common defense, then you must amend the Constitution or, in the alternative, persuade a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to abandon the precedents that have interpreted the Second Amendment up until now.

    But encouraging the government to pass a law because “something must be done!” — notwithstanding a constitutional bar to such a law — is irresponsible. “Great people do great things”? I’m sure if you think about it, you will realize the danger inherent in that statement. In the meantime, Americans do constitutional things, and if you are dissatisfied with what the Constitution says (as interpreted by the Supreme Court from Marbury v. Madison (1803) to today, then change it. But ignoring it is not an option.

  7. ColinFromLasVegas says:

    No, no, no, I caught your points, Mr. Sebelius. You misunderstand me. And I did actually enjoy your article. I just hope others read it and comment….all in order to have a discussion about an issue that certain gun manufacturer lobby types don’t even want anyone to speak about…because it works against their interests. They are banking on the status quo. So they can sell, sell, sell guns.

    Kind of hard to relate what I’m saying with the written word. You got me beat probably in that area. At least you’re able to do it without cussing. Which I seem to have an issue with.

    But what I guess I am trying to say is the points the President came up with, along with forthcoming pieces of legislation for Congress to act upon (or not), are steps in that process to change the Second Amendment. I see it as the building blocks. The Founding Fathers created a dynamic document. One that can be changed to accomodate the changing times. And it can be used as toilet paper if people just turn a blind eye to an issue like this.

    The President, who is knowledgeable and trained in U.S. Constitutional law, didn’t just pull this out of his butt and present it. Thought went into it. It’s not a knee jerk reaction. It’s trying to get people involved and get some serious change going on.

    But anyways, thanks for responding on this very, very, very, very controversial issue. Because no matter what someone says, there always seems to be a whole host of others that dogpile on top of you in response with the other side. Don’t matter if they make sense or not.

    I just hope people pay attention to the last thing you typed above:

    “But ignoring it is not an option.”

    That was pretty much the intent of my long rambling tirade above.

    We simply cannot, as a nation a part of the civilized free world, do nothing.

    If we let idiots like LaPierre and Kennedy from the NRA be in charge of this issue, people with only an agenda, then the only people who will make out in the future will be…..undertakers.

  8. Clarification: When I said “ignoring it is not an option,” I meant “we can’t ignore the Constitution,” not the issue of gun control. President Obama has shown a disturbing tendency to ignore some constitutional provisions in the past, as opposed to changing laws through the regular order of the Congress. Yes, it’s easier to do things by executive order, but real change only comes from the consensus forced upon us by the constitutional order. If we abandon that, ironically enough, we will need more guns, not fewer.

  9. Carolyn Robins says:

    The 2nd Amendment is sketchy, at best. Even Scalia, of all people, says it would be perfectly constitutional to ban some types of weapons. If the founding fathers had any idea what types of weapons would be available several centuries later, they would have written more specificity into the 2nd Amendment. They didn’t, so we have to bring gun laws up to date. The President’s ideas are reasonable. I agree with all who say we can’t just sit back and do nothing. Do something and do it quickly.

  10. “Sketchy at best”? The Second Amendment is every bit the law of the land, just as much as the First, and the Fourth and the Fifth and the Fourteenth! There are no “sketchy” parts of the Constitution, Carolyn. Now, if you want to “bring gun laws up to date,” you need to do what I said above: Amend the Constitution in the regular order (two-thirds of Congress, three-fifths of state Legislatures). Under the present state of the law, the Second Amendment (as interpreted by subsequent Supreme Court rulings) makes some of what President Obama has proposed highly questionable, at best.

  11. Steve says:

    Exactly Steve. On this you nail it.

    There is a process for changing the constitution and I respect any who work within that process to make change said change while I have very low regard for those who would make change by “interpreting” the words until those words no longer have any meaning at all. Even fully automatic M-16′s are not banned, it is fully legal for an individual to obtain one and legal for an individual to manufacture them. Look on the BATF website they spell it out. What has been done is to make them almost impossible to obtain. Any ban on firearms will end up before the Supreme Court.

    Ask yourself what is similar between Switzerland and the USA. The Swiss actually hold their military issued firearm when they leave active duty. Switzerland has the worlds largest militia consisting of almost every adult in the country. They are to keep ready and maintain their firearms against any and all invaders.
    The similarity is their “liberal” gun laws and one very important other. Both the USA and Switzerland were born of revolution and both have documents that found a strong militia.
    The literal wording of the second amendment clearly indicates the founders desire for a citizen militia. If this is to be changed it must be changed according to and fully within the process set out in the founding documents of this country. Any other way is tantamount to another revolution and overthrow of our government IMO.

    Ask yourself (with a wink and a nod) if they cannot find 15 million illegal immigrants just how the hell are they going to find 300 million “illegal” guns?

    Remember Boris Yeltsin on the tank? All those “illegal” guns in the old USSR surrounding and supporting him?

    Follow the process and take it all the way your convictions lead.

  12. Mr Ed says:

    Remind me of the “crack babies” stuff that brought on the “Rockefeller Laws” in NY and elsewhere. Big failure that did more harm then good. Like prohibition, we got to do something about people getting drunk and not taking care of their families, blah, blah, another bad idea. Banning something people want. Gambling,booze, drugs, sex, abortion, guns, etc. etc. It will make things worse.

  13. ColinFromLasVegas says:

    Totally understand the importance of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Sebelius. But I don’t see where, on this issue alone, that President Obama is trying to circumvent it. He’s only doing what the will of the American people want and trying to kick start some kind of change to it. Because even the most howling, screaming, foaming at the mouth Ted Nugent pry this gun from my cold, dead finger type has to agree the Second Amendment needs updating.

    But, we could just…do nothing.

    Let the bodies pile up.

    Tomorrow, which is Saturday, the 19th of January, between 8AM and 11AM, the NRA is hosting a seminar with the Nevada legislators somewhere here in Las Vegas. I would bet they are gonna throw money around, line pockets with money and strongly urge our elected officials to toe the line and not change anything. I would even imagine there will be political threats against them by the gun lobby. This is what they do.

    Fuck it, Mr. Sebelius. The money wins. The lobbyists just tell America that more and more bodies will pile up. If some of them are the bullet riddled bodies of young children? Eh. No big whoop. That’s the cost of business. GUNS MUST BE SOLD.

    They win. They get to sell more guns. They get to feed paranoia.

    Believe you me, I value the Constitution. It’s important. But the Founding Fathers right now are rolling in their graves at how this has morphed into something where what they put into effect back then is actually killing people now.

    We need change.

    The people need to keep up the pressure on the the gun manufacturer lobby. Contrary to popular opinion, they don’t have the fucking political power everyone thinks they have. And all polls show that, even amongst NRA members, there is agreement this madness must be changed. Because hunters don’t need assault rifles to go hunting. The last time I checked, Bambi is not more heavily armed with automatic weapons, hand grenades and crew served weapons than the hunters.

    Anyways, I don’t see President Obama booting the U.S. Constitution around.

    I see him carrying through with the will of the American people. Calling for change.

    And, to tell the truth, I admire him for having the political courage to take on what others deem the un-do-able.

  14. James Weld says:

    Carolyn: Same quote with a slight adjustment “If the founding fathers had any idea what types of press would be available several centuries later, they would have written more specificity into the 1st Amendment.”

    This is not a ‘gun’ law; nor is the 1st a ‘press’ law.
    These are all laws to protect the people from an intrusive government. They limit what government can do to us.

  15. Justin McAffee says:

    I wrote a piece and link to this article… I suggest that assault weapons aren’t that common and don’t fall under protections of the Second Amendment. Justice Scalia seems to concur.