Is Executive Action on Gun control good for U.S.?

Mark Winokur

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Executive action restricts honest citizens

Sam Lombardo

Several weeks ago, President Barack Obama added nearly 4,000 regulations through executive orders. These regulations focused on a wide variety of issues, including the increased use of electronic cigarettes. The most notable regulations, however, were those placed on guns, and, more specifically, the gun dealers. There are three main issues with the president’s actions: they inhibit personal liberty; they will have little to no effect, and they bypass Congress and the checks and balances it provides.

The executive order usher in two major changes. First, to purchase a weapon, the buyer must pass a background check. Next, all those selling weapons, whether in stores, at gun shows, over the internet or to a friend, will need licenses. Those who do not abide could face up to $250,000 in fines and five years in prison.

To many, these restrictions seem logical and fair. Unfortunately, the actual restrictions unfairly target specific groups of individuals. These orders inadvertently hurt the mentally ill and the elderly. The Health Issue Portability and Accountability Act requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide demographics and other necessary information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. This subjective analysis could limit individual Second Amendment rights. Currently, one in 10 people in America take antidepressants, which could result in the U.S. government preventing these people from purchasing guns. The goal of this limit and the outcome of it are very different. 

Many Republicans oppose such restrictions, and value Second Amendment rights over the proposed limitations. If background checks were successful in curbing crime, that position could be an unfair one to hold. While they sound like a great method of preventing assaults and homicides, background checks largely fail in their attempts to decrease crime. In December, the New York Times released an investigation that found that the guns used in recent, high-profile shootings were purchased legally, after passing a background check. In addition, guns purchased at gun shows were not used. Requiring background checks in all sales, therefore, simply makes it more difficult for law-abiding Americans to exercise their rights.

Even if the proposed restrictions are beneficial, they could be easily overturned by a Republican president. This factor means the executive order cannot make long-term change.

Partisan relations in America are seemingly at an all-time low, and President Obama’s most recent course of action is not helping. Issuing an executive order on such a controversial issue between the parties could have adverse effects and potentially increase gridlock in a Congress already infamous for its lack of action. This is the classic issue of Executive overreaching, something that is always a point of tension in the party not currently holding office. By doing this, it demonstrates that Obama has given up trying to work with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to achieve his goals concerning gun control, so he just took matters into his own hands.

While executive orders are allowed in our current state of government, many frown upon them because they allow the president to neglect the other branches of government and pass regulations. This leaves Congress out in the cold and angers all of the Republican voters who feel disenfranchised as their elected officials are left powerless.

It is true that President Obama’s executive orders will make it harder to obtain or sell a firearm in the United States, but it is also true that the drawbacks that come with passing these orders clearly outweigh the benefits. Obama is playing the short game, while he should instead be looking ahead past his presidency. Tensions in Congress will be at an all-time high, and gun owners across the nation will be cataloged as gun dealers, which is a quasi registration of many Americans, even though it is currently prohibited to create a registry using NCIS information.

Regulation places check on gun culture

Mark Winokur

Gun violence, ranging from homicides to mass shootings, is a growing problem in America and has impacted many communities. Over the past decade, guns have killed more than 100,000 people in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center, and many more instances of gun violence are associated with  robberies, assaults and other crimes. Hundreds of thousands of people have committed suicide using guns in the last decade, according to the CDC, and, had guns not been so easily available to them, outside intervention could have been much more effective. Many people who commit violent crimes and act on what could have been short-lived suicidal impulses should not have guns in the first place. It is clear that some action needs to be taken to change the current state of gun culture in America in order to prevent criminals from obtaining guns and causing harm to others.

The psychological impact of our culture of violence is more significant than the death count from gun violence. The media’s representation of gun violence has polarized much of society, portraying our world as a violent environment where mass shootings are constantly taking place. It is empirically confirmed that most people who buy guns purchase them for security and protection. This mindset promotes a culture of individualism that chills free speech and democratic participation. If efforts are made to curb these violent acts and their media depictions, it will help break down fears and make it easier for people to trust each other.

For these reasons, I believe that President Barack Obama’s executive actions on gun control are imperative to restore our entangled society and the gun culture that has resulted from the numerous deaths and shootings that have occurred throughout many communities. These actions will aim to mandate more rigorous background checks on the private sale and ownership of firearms to ensure that guns are kept out of the wrong hands; this is a necessary measure against violent crimes. The executive orders also intends to explore new technologies that will help decrease criminal activity. One such example of this is smart guns, which have special features like fingerprint technology to ensure that guns will not be used by anyone besides their authorized users.

Empirically, gun control regulations have been effective at preventing guns from getting into the hands of violent criminals. For example, John Hopkins University published a study in 2014 that assessed trends in criminal activity before and after Missouri repealed background checks for the sale of handguns. Following the repeal, the gun homicide rate increased by 25 percent and the overall homicide rate increased by 14 percent, even though the national homicide rate declined. Another study found that in states with stricter regulations on background checks, there was an overall average of 17 percent fewer aggravated assaults. The majority of experts conclude that enforcing stricter regulations on the sale and ownership of guns would help to improve public safety by reducing violence and criminal activity.

A common criticism of Obama’s executive orders is that they infringe on individual rights. We have to realize, however, that this plan will only affect those who engage in criminal activity. Law-abiding citizens who deserve to have guns would not be affected by background checks, and will still be able to possess a gun for self defense if they wish to do so. Thus, the only rights that the policy would infringe upon are those that should not be exercised in the first place — namely those of criminals who contribute to the death toll and the culture of violence that has shaped American politics and modes of thought.

While Obama’s efforts alone may not eliminate our society’s culture of violence, they will certainly help as needed preventative measures to curb gun incidents. For example, the mass shooting that recently occurred in a Charleston, S.C. church would not have likely occurred had stricter gun control regulations been enforced. These traumatic events emphasize the importance of enforcing restrictions on the sale of guns as a necessary means to reducing violent crime.

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