Last week, we learned that there is, indeed, now a fundamental right for individuals to keep and bear arms, supplied by the US Supreme Court in 2008 and 2010 (the precedents, not the arms). Beyond the broad outlines of the right, much remains to be defined about its application and any limits. The reasonable minds hereabouts differ on those matters; what we do know are two things: that there is considerable uncertainty lurking in the under-developed jurisprudence of this Amendment, and that anything that gets enacted into law in the current push will be tested against this right, and presumably provide some answers to fill the void.
[As an aside, you may wager that any vacancies that occur on the top bench -- especially any among the five-justice 2d Amendment majority, will touch-off a confirmation battle that'll make Mr. Justice Thomas'
"high-tech lynching" look like recess.]
So, what are these new provisions, the products of VP Biden's deliberations and the Prez's concurrence? Here is a listing -- first, of the Executive Orders (things that can be done within the Executive Branch, for which Congressional approval is not required), and then of the legislative proposals coming before Congress. Incidentally, the first list was drawn from the Fox News website, so you know the descriptions are fair and balanced. The NY Times supplied to second (uh-oh).
So, the question before this house is: with which of these specific proposals do you find fault, or disagree?
The Executive Orders (23)
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
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.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
Guns Used in Crimes
10. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
11. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
12. Nominate an ATF director.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
15. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
16. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
Gun Violence Causation and Reporting
17. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
18. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
19. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
The Legislative Proposals (require passage by Congress)
1. Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.
2. Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
3. Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
4. Banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than members of the military and law enforcement.
5. Increasing criminal penalties for "straw purchasers," people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.
6. Acting on a $4 billion Administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street.
7. Confirming President's nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives by Senate.
8. Eliminating a restriction that requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the importation of weapons that are more than 50 years old.
9. Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks.
10. Provide additional $20 million to help expand the system that tracks violent deaths across the nation from 18 states to 50 states.
11. Providing $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans.
12. Providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.
Where there appears to be overlap, that is usually because Congress needs to fund programs (like first responder training) called-for in the Executive Orders.
So that's it. Anyone feel unconstitutionally restrained by, or otherwise opposed to any of these measures? Do you feel the need for an armor-piercing bullet to protect home-and-hearth? Need an assault rifle to harvest that buck? Conversely, is there anything Not on these lists that you believe should be part of the package?
Personally (you knew I'd get here -- it's my blog, after all), this is the kind of situation where the following rule should apply (not sure from which parental unit it came, and they're beyond asking):
"You should never expect to win [the gun violence war] completely, but you are sure to lose if you do not try."
Every life that is saved through better enforcement of current laws, or greater difficulty securing more lethal weaponry, or even because a madman has to pause to reload, is precious. Incremental progress that is denominated in real lives is real progress. Put another way, when I balance these mild restrictions on gun partisans against the ongoing, daily carnage produced by our current, unmanaged system, it's a bargain that's worth making.