The Tragedy in Newtown has generated a lot of political activity.
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of the President's much anticipated "executive orders". Depending on who you listen to, these orders are one of two things:
- The minimum possible reaction to the tragedy in Newtown, and essential action to stem a horrible wave of senseless violence.
- A presidential usurpation of our second amendment rights, and an affront to the constitution.
I am happy to report that it is neither. I must admit that I have not read the content of all 23 executive orders, but having just read the summary. I can report that these orders are not likely to have any earth-shaking effects. This is an exercise in PR, and it looks like that's about it.
For example, take #1
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
Isn't this already being done? Why not? If illegal, then it will presumably stay illegal, so what will this order do?
There are several that are strictly PR, like #6
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
A few are downright comical. I like #11
11. Nominate an ATF director.
Wow. The president signed an executive order that tells him to do his own job.
There may well be land mines in here. The President may well be stepping over the line in some instances, but the hyperbole preceeding this release has clearly been overblown.
It is also true that the effect of these 23 orders on "gun violence" will be minimal. In fact, I think some of them will be downright counterproductive. Take #13 "
Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
You have to wonder what this is supposed to mean. Does it suppose that "enforcement efforts" are not currently "maximized"? Are law enforcement officials sitting on their hands, waiting for something to do? I think not. I think that any added effort on this front will come at the expense of some other law enforcement front. Any increase in effort on this new front must come at the expense of what law enforcement is already doing.
So, what law enforcement activity will be cut? There is no free lunch.
All that said, our diligence in holding our President to his oath—to preserve, protect and defend our consitution—remains vital. Power corrupts, and no matter how well intentioned, people with power are constantly tempted to take short cuts. Permitting even a small violation of the constitution sets precedent, and makes future violations much easier.
These executive orders are cheap and easy. They declare that there will be some added effort somewhere, but nowhere is there anything about how the efforts will be paid for. It is easy and popular to say "something should be done". It is much harder to say "We should do this, at the following cost".
Come to think of it, these 23 executive orders are an excellent example of why we have a debt of over $16 trillion.