GOP freaks out at Obama for announcing that he will enforce existing gun laws

Earlier today, President Obama announced that he is issuing an executive order that clarifies which gun sellers must obtain federal firearms licenses, effective expanding the country’s background check system to cover purchases made online and at gun shows. Additionally, Obama announced that his administration will allocate additional funding for mental health services.

Politically, the fact that federal gun regulations are tightening at all is monumental. Practically, however, the administration’s move is really quite modest. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent explains:

President Obama hugs Gabby Giffords, via Wikimedia Commons

President Obama hugs Gabby Giffords, via Wikimedia Commons

Current law says that those who are “engaged in the business” of selling firearms, “with the principle objective of livelihood and profit,” are required to get a license, and thus to run checks. But the law excludes those who make “occasional” sales or sell their personal firearms collections.

Thus, the challenge here is to redefine “engaged in the business” in a manner that captures those who effectively are engaged in the business of selling guns — but currently are operating without a license — without capturing those who aren’t.

In other words, the President isn’t passing a new law by fiat; he’s updating his administration’s interpretation of current law to include gun sellers who, while not owning a brick and mortar store, are still engaged in the business of selling guns.

Nevertheless, the announcement was met with universal condemnation by Republicans in Congress. Paul Ryan chided Obama for dismissing Congress. Marco Rubio called the move part of Obama’s “War on the Constitution.” Louie Gohmert was so mad online that he invented an Internet acronym:

And so on.

The Republican freakout over Obama’s order was as misguided as it was predictable. Nothing about President Obama’s announcement today constitutes a new law. It’s a tweak to the enforcement of the laws that are already on the books. What’s more, it doesn’t prevent anyone who would pass a federal background check from buying a gun. It simply seeks to make it a bit more difficult for people who wouldn’t pass a background check from finding gun sellers who aren’t required to run one on them.

This being the case, the Republicans’ beef with Obama isn’t over expanded background check enforcement as much as it’s over background check laws in the first place. And if that’s the real issue, fine, but let’s get Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio on the record saying they think screening gun buyers for criminal records violates the 2nd Amendment.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • therling

    People forget that the current system of background checks for gun purchasers was put into place because a guy so nuts that he thought shooting a president would make Jodie Foster love him was able to walk into a store and walk out with a gun.

    When the assassination attempt occurred Reagan (the patron saint of conservatives) was accompanied by numerous heavily armed and well-trained “good guys,” some of whom had Uzi submachine guns. Shooter John Hinckley had previously been arrested for illegal possession of a firearm, which he had planned on using on Jimmy Carter.

  • 2karmanot

    ” the administration’s move is really quite modest.” Sums up Obama in a nutschell

  • You know the country is fucked up when an elected official can argue that we can’t let in refugees because some of them might be terrorists and once here it would be too easy for them to buy assault rifles. WTF?

  • princesswhobites

    Just read an article from a conservative attorney (Napolitano) who made the case regarding unlicensed sellers and how that is the main issue. So…there’s that.

  • I have been making this argument for years: it’s pointless to talk about new gun control laws while we aren’t bothering to enforce the ones we already have.

  • Bullshit. I have a lot of right-wing relatives. They believe that Obama is going to have the cops bust down their doors and take away all their guns. There’s already been a mass-forward email claiming that Connecticut gun owners have already been told they have to surrender all firearms.

  • princesswhobites

    I don’t think they are upset about existing gun laws. I think they have said they are concerned that he is overriding a congressional law regarding unlicensed gun sales and background checks. That is much different.

  • woodroad34

    I doubt Obama’s actions would have been warranted if the NRA and GOP nut jobs didn’t make it easy for every mentally/emotionally deficient idiot to get a gun. The GOP means death, repression, and paranoia. There is no hope, happiness, maturity or actual betterment with them–it’s all a toxic cloud of stank with them.

  • DGT

    The town I grew up in is in Gohmert’s district. My family and former high school classmates on Facebook absolutely adore him. Whenever they repost something like this, they all swoon and wish he could be president. Seriously.

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  • The_Fixer

    I think you’re being generous when you compare him to a bag of hammers. A bag of hammers features a bag, and hammers – which can be useful. With Louie, you get Louie, which is far less useful than either the bag or the hammers.

  • At this point, the NRA and the Republicans won’t be satisfied until handguns are available for sale at convenience stores, on demand. Provided your skin color is white, of course, since as we already know, in their opinion the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply otherwise.

  • The only things more useless and bag-of-hammers stupid than Louie Gohmert are the Texans who vote for him.

  • The_Fixer

    Does 4m mean 4 Million, or does it mean “for male”, like in m4m?

    Oh, Louie. I would ask how he got his position, but I already know the answer to that one.

  • So the NRA and its GOP running dogs keep shouting to enforce existing laws (which they are working to repeal with a villainous zeal) until Obama announces he will do so.

  • And a Democrat.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I think the GOP is most concerned with the really, big law that Obama broke: being President while being African American.

  • It’s not even that huge a difference. You want to sell a rifle to your neighbor or a relative or some dude on Craigslist, you can still do that, no background check required. You want to buy a gun, then later on change your mind and resell it, still allowed.

    You buy guns specifically for resale, with an eye towards making profits you have to declare on your taxes? You’re a gun dealer. You travel with a car or van load of guns to gun shows and walk out with thousands of bucks in your pocket? You’re a gun dealer. People call you almost daily because you’re likely to have a gun for sale that they want to buy or can get it quickly if you don’t? You are a gun dealer. You have no significant source of income other than your gun and ammo sales? You are a gun dealer.

    I also find it unfathomable that the GOPers and gun fans are basically arguing, “Yes, someone with a criminal background or mental illness should have no hindrance to buying firearms.” As you pointed out, Jon, this would not take a single gun away from a law-abiding (and mentally fit) citizen. It would not prevent a single purchase…except by those who would not otherwise be able to walk into a brick-and-mortar gun dealership and buy a gun. It’s like all these self-described “good guys with guns” face a collective existential crisis if we don’t allow there to be as many “bad guys with guns” as possible.

    20 years ago, the GOPers and NRA were saying, “No new regs, just have universal background checks.” But when that was proposed and might actually happen, suddenly it was “No, we can’t have that.” For even longer, they kept saying we didn’t need any more gun laws, just better enforcement of the ones already on the books. President Obama just did exactly that. He just proposed better enforcement of the law saying who is and isn’t a professional gun dealer, with the only difference being required participation in the national background check system.

    So of course the GOPers and ammosexuals freak out. (#SMDH…)

  • nicho

    “Obama finds cure for cancer — GOP freaks out, calls for impeachment.”

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Who is going to save us 4m the NRA? ikr

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