Wiping away tears that eluded him when he spoke about the jihadist massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, President Obama condemned congressional inaction in the face of gun violence during remarks he delivered from the East Room of the White House on Tuesday morning. The president vowed to fill in the void through executive action. The most egregious of these measures is a wholesale re-writing of the definition of what constitutes a “seller” in order to extend the reach of federal government control over all gun owners. Obama listed this as his top priority action, ahead of what he described as “smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books.”
Enforcing the laws already on the books is the responsibility of the executive branch. Making new laws or changing existing laws is the responsibility of the legislative branch.
Apparently, President Obama has learned nothing from the Supreme Court’s reversal of his unconstitutional recess appointments and the judicial stay issued against his unconstitutional immigration amnesty executive orders. Obama gave little comfort to skeptics when he claimed in his White House remarks that “I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper.”
The problem is that Obama believes the Constitution is only just a piece of paper, which he can erase and then use the blank page to write his own rules of governance. After all, this is the same man who complained years ago that the Constitution says “what the federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.”
As president, Obama has gone even further, railing against the separation of powers. If Congress does not act the way he thinks it should, he will just proceed all by himself. In his mind, he is doing something he must on behalf of the American people right now, while the “gun lobby” is holding Congress “hostage.”
As usual, President Obama raised strawman arguments to justify his latest power grab.
For example, Obama claimed in his East Room remarks announcing his gun control executive actions that “we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close.”
Obama’s claim is misleading.
First of all, we do not have complete data from countries such as China and Russia to draw any meaningful conclusions. Secondly, raw total numbers of mass shootings tell less in terms of real comparisons than normalizing the numbers utilizing some constant unit of population. According to a study conducted by the Crime Prevention Research Center, which compared annual death rates per million people from mass public shootings between the United States and European countries from 2009 to mid-2015, the United States ranks 9th. The United States has the same ranking when comparing the frequency of mass public shootings during the same time period. This data, by the way, was compiled before the deadly jihadist mass shootings in Paris that claimed 130 lives last November.
Moreover, deaths in general that have occurred as a result of gun violence have declined sharply during the last twenty years. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The nation’s overall gun death rate has declined 31% since 1993.” President Obama is deliberately distorting the scope of the problem to convince Americans that we are facing an urgent crisis which he must address immediately to resolve.
Obama also tried to debunk the argument that other forms of weapons such as knives, which are not so heavily regulated, are also effective lethal instruments that can be as deadly as guns. Israeli civilians, facing the constant threat of Palestinian knife attacks which have taken multiple lives, would beg to differ. Conveniently ignoring what is going on in Israel today, Obama chose to use a knife attack in China to buttress his point that guns are far more deadly:
“Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill -- with a knife -- a bunch of children in China. But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.”
Again, Obama is guilty of cherry-picking his facts, or perhaps he was just misinformed. Last September, knife-wielding jihadists killed at least 50 people to death at a coalmine in China’s violence-ridden Xinjiang province. Last June, a group of knife-wielding jihadists killed 33 people and injured 130 others. In September 2014, a deranged man stabbed three children and a teacher to death and wounded several others at a Chinese primary school that had refused to enroll his daughter. These are just a few examples of deadly stabbing incidents in China.
Guns are very strictly controlled in China, but not knives. People who are determined to engage in mass killings, whatever their motives may be, will find the weapon to carry out their evil deeds.
Obama tried to debunk the argument that comprehensive background checks might not have stopped at least some previous mass killings. “I reject that thinking,” he said. Obama cited Connecticut as an example of a state where background checks make a difference. “After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent -- 40 percent,” he proclaimed to applause. Obama omitted to mention that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut happened seventeen years after the passage of that law. According to the final Report of the State’s Attorney for the Judicial District of Danbury, “All of the firearms were legally purchased by the shooter’s mother.”
Moreover, the president undercut his own argument regarding the need for more gun control measures when he casually mentioned that gun violence claiming the lives of kids “happens on the streets of Chicago every day.” Chicago has amongst the strictest gun control laws in the country.
Some proponents of Obama’s executive actions claim they are modest improvements to tighten loopholes in existing laws, ramp up enforcement resources, improve dealers’ reporting of lost or stolen guns, address mental health issues including better information sharing and boost gun safety technology. However, Obama’s past performance on a host of issues indicates that if you give him an inch he will take a mile. His first priority – to require anyone the Obama administration deems to be “in the business of selling firearms” to “get a license and conduct background checks”- is an invitation to further abuse of power. According to a report in the New York Times, White House officials have said that someone selling even one or two guns could be considered in the business of selling firearms and subject to the new requirements. How would a barter arrangement instead of a cash transaction be treated?
President Obama should save his tears for the victims of global jihad, including those Americans killed in such places as Fort Hood, Boston, Seattle, Chattanooga and San Bernardino. If he wants his final year in office to show any accomplishments, he should go after ISIS, al Qaeda and other jihadist groups who mean to do us harm with the “fierce urgency of now” that he reserving for his gun control agenda. The president’s drive to release more and more jihadists from Guantanamo, some of whom have returned to battle against us, demonstrates his “fierce urgency” in the opposite direction.