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The good, the bad and the ugly

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From page A4 | January 23, 2013 |

“It was an oath I took that I would to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. I could not take the office without taking the oath. Nor was it my view that I might take an oath to get power, and break the oath in using that power.”

— President Abraham Lincoln, public letter to Albert G. Hodges

Jan. 16 President Barack Obama issued 23 executive orders to curb gun violence. Some of them are innocuous. Some look like space fillers to make it look like he is doing something to prevent another elementary school shooting like the one in Connecticut. Some of them are praiseworthy. Some are legally and constitutionally questionable.

“2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.” This seems like a good goal, not really an order to the executive branch. This is something that should be done through an act of Congress. We await the details before commenting further.

“3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.” Good idea, but more detail is needed on “incentives,” which often turn out to be coercions.

“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.” This list should be reviewed by Congress. Some persons, such as those on restraining orders should be able to be easily removed from the prohibited list when the restraining order is lifted by a court.

“5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.” We are leery of rule making. This should be carefully limited, so that police, including park police, are not allowed to seize weapons unless a felony was committed involving the use of the weapon or a person was found by competent licensed authority be mentally ill. This is the constitutionally most dangerous executive order. This could allow law enforcement executing a search warrant for some documents in a person’s home to confiscate any weapons found and take a couple of years “conducting a background check.”

“6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.” If a private party is selling a weapon to a dealer and it is not on the stolen weapons list, then it is not the government’s business. See No. 10.

“10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.” Stolen guns are not well documented and need to be kept on a statewide and national list in perpetuity, with the goal of returning the weapons to those who were theft victims.

“16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.” Shrinks yes, general practitioners no.

“7. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.” “Health care providers?” Why not specify licensed mental health professionals — not nurses, lab techs, x-ray machine operators, phlebotomists and physical therapists. Only eight states account for 84 percent of the database on mental health records, according to a 2011 analysis by Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The Government Accountability Office determined that a dozen states accounted for the majority of mental health-related records.

“I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown,” President Obama said in introducing his executive orders.

We agree. Keep the mentally unbalanced and violent felons from obtaining weapons. Just don’t mess with the 99.9 percent of law-abiding gun owners.

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