What Crazy Fascist Executive Orders Might Obama Use to Take Away Your Freedoms?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 9 2013 12:12 PM

What Crazy Fascist Executive Orders Might Obama Use to Take Away Your Freedoms?

The Drudge Report is America's leading source of hyperlinks to Alex Jones articles, so I'm not sure why this splash page so shocked Washington. (Apparently there are reporters who still use Drudge as a sort of homepage? I would have thought the rat-a-tat-tat of false election news drove those people to the Internet's real homepages, Reddit and Twitter.)

Screen shot 2013-01-09 at 1.06.22 PM

The story behind the image: an item about Joe Biden mentioning possible "executives orders, there's executive action that can be taken" on guns. For someone who's spent so much time on gun legislation, Biden's awfully ignorant of the terms that drive Second Amendment defenders crazy. Their natural conclusion: Obama will use executive orders to ban guns!

A problem: Obama can't actually do that. The big priorities of the gun control movement -- background checks, magazine size limits, an assault weapons ban -- all require action from Congress. According to Mayors Against Illegal Guns (which has recently overtaken the Brady campaign as the organization most despised by the gun lobby), the executive branch would be limited to a few tweaks of current law. Their current pitch mentions three of them:

- Directing the DOJ to prosecute more "prohibited purchasers" when they attempt to buy guns. In 2009, the FBI referred 71,000 cases of thse buyers, mostly felons. U.S. attorneys prosecuted only 77 cases.

- Appointing a permanent ATF director. The ATF has spooked the right ever since Ruby Ridge (before, too, but that's when the real agita started), and the Senate hasn't confirmed a permanent director since 2006.

- Requiring federal agencies to report mental health records. The NICS Improvement Act of 2007, passed after the Virginia Tech shootings, requires this. It hardly ever happens.

There we go: Three things Obama could propose by executive order, none affecting the guns and ammo currently for sale in the United States. Maybe Obama has a more nefarious plan. Maybe Biden, secretly, said this in order to make an eventual proposal look more reasonable. But they're not particularly crazy or Hitler-ish ideas. (Maybe the mental health part is? I didn't mean to type that.)

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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