As promised, President Obama issued a series of “New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer,” according to the fact sheet published on the White House website on Tuesday.
In order to address what has become known in many states as the “gun show loophole” — whereby purchasing a firearm from a vendor at a gun show had far less restrictions on background checks, licensing, and waiting periods — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was ordered to “clarify” several issues and definitions.
Anyone dealing firearms will now be required to obtain a license to do so, regardless of their location. This includes gun show vendors and Internet firearms dealers, as well as brick-and-mortar stores. The federal government will be watching such indicators as “quantity and frequency of sales” to catch anyone attempting to skirt the requirement. Typical of government, those guidelines are rather murky. According to Obama:
There is no specific threshold number of firearms purchased or sold that triggers the licensure requirement. But it is important to note that even a few transactions, when combined with other evidence, can be sufficient to establish that a person is ‘engaged in the business.’ For example, courts have upheld convictions for dealing without a license when as few as two firearms were sold or when only one or two transactions took place, when other factors were also present.
Penalties for those found to be dealing without a license or failing to conduct background checks include up to five years imprisonment and fines up to $250,000.
Another apparent loophole addressed surrounds the employment of trusts, corporations, and “other legal entities” to exploit outdated regulations in the National Firearms Act and avoid background checks in order to obtain “some of the most dangerous weapons, such as machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.” Now, the ATF “is finalizing a rule” that will effectively end such thwarting of background checks.
On that topic, Obama plans to overhaul the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), both by updating the technology and by ensuring pertinent information — such as a history of domestic violence or mental illness — is included in those reports. To reduce the number of people allowed to purchase guns when checks cannot be completed in three days, an additional 230 FBI agents will be hired to handle the voluminous number of requests for background information, and that system will now process checks 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
To further tighten control, an additional 200 ATF agents and investigators will be hired for the incredibly ambiguous duty of “strategic and impactful enforcement” to “take violent criminals off the street [oh, the irony], deter other unlawful activity, and prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.” This appears to amount to a War Against Guns — which will be fought valiantly by government agents. With guns.
Moving on . . .
An additional $4 million in funding and further upgrades to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, as well as the establishment of the Internet Investigations Center to hunt for firearms dealers attempting to bypass the new laws, are all included in these sweeping measures.
To address the issue of mental health in relation to the ability to purchase firearms, the Obama administration “is proposing a new $500 million investment to help engage individuals with serious mental illness in care, improve access to care by increasing service capacity and the behavioral health workforce, and ensure that behavioral health care systems work for everyone. This effort would increase access to mental health services” as a matter of top priority.
Also on the issue of mental health, the Social Security Administration “indicated it will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NIC,” including information concerning those receiving disability due to a mental health condition — though supposedly there will be an appeal process in the form of a relief mechanism for those who feel they’ve been unfairly prohibited from buying and owning a gun.
Rounding out the sweeping list of new regulatory and administrative so-called improvements, Obama pledged to put the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security to work on “research into gun safety technology that would reduce the frequency of accidental discharge or unauthorized use of firearms, and improve the tracing of lost or stolen guns.”
The president held a press conference announcing the executive actions, in which he made a curious attempt at humor to sell more laws to an exceedingly polarized public. Obama quipped:
Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation. Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates — apparently before this meeting — this is not a plot to, uh, take away everybody’s guns.
As many of us are familiar, however, unpopular truths often come packaged in humor.
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