“While Rome burns” President Obama has begun his last year in office with a series of executive actions that he believes will reduce gun-related violence in this country.

His critics contend that this is another cynical attempt to distract Americans from his foreign policy failures. Even if this is not the case, even if the President sincerely believes he is morally obliged to assert his executive authority and circumvent Congress in the gun control arena, so much of what he says is demagogic and not based on facts.

In announcing the details of his executive actions, the President would have you believe that the evil NRA, gun show loopholes and the absence of background checks are responsible for terrorism and domestic gun violence.

He wants to close the so-called “gun show loopholes.” In truth, there is no loophole. Gun dealers who attend gun shows have to be licensed and they are required to conduct a background check before selling you a gun. There can be a private sale of a gun between two individuals without a background check. This is so whether the sale takes place at a gun show or over the backyard fence. Apparently, then, what the President really wants is to regulate a private sale between two people. This pushes the envelope on the Second Amendment. Are we ready for this?

The President says that there exists an online loophole, that a felon can buy a handgun over the internet with no background check, “no questions asked.”

This is not so. Gun dealers who sell online must require a background check. Even a private sale online cannot legally take place without a background check if the gun is being shipped across a state line.

The President also wants “universal background checks.” What does this mean? It is somewhat of a misnomer. This is meant to regulate private exchange of guns. For example, if you want to sell or give your old 30-30 Winchester to your nephew, Bob, the sale would have to be approved by the Federal government. The government would vet nephew Bob for criminality and mental stability. This may have a compelling logic on the surface, until it is soberly weighed against the protections of the Second Amendment and the Federal government’s track record for regulatory fairness. (The IRS, for example).

Although none of the President’s proposed actions on gun control would have prevented the San Bernadino shootings and many others, America needs to have a national conversation about gun violence, a conversation that includes the relationship between mental illness and domestic violence. The President is not really leading this conversation when he petulantly denounces the NRA as “liars,” or cavalierly dismisses the constitutionally-endowed role of Congress in national affairs.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors.” His e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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