Can the President Enact Gun Control Under Executive Order?


The public’s reaction to the Newtown, Connecticut shooting has emboldened politicians on both sides to act.  At the federal level, the House and the Senate are slow and divided.  President Obama is seizing on this opportunity to act by executive fiat in the form of the Executive Order.  What is an Executive Order and is President Obama permitted to use this power to alter the Second Amendment?

An Executive Order is a decree signed by the President that has the full force of law.   It must be constitutional and cannot interfere with congress.  There is no explicit language in the United States Constitution permitting Executive Orders, but they were traditionally used by Presidents to give instruction to the various Executive Agencies that fall under the control of the President or have been authorized by Congress.

Even though every President has used some form of the Executive Order, the potential for abuse causes much criticism.  In 1942, Executive Order 9066 called for the internment of all Japanese Americans into militarized camps.  This order was met with obvious controversy but was upheld in the courts because of it taking place in a time of war.

There is some speculation as to the specifics of President Obama’s proposals.  These would include streamlining the background check process, changing the ATF’s internal rules, or even giving schools greater flexibility with federal grants.  These seem like harmless ideas, however Congressman Steve Stockman has vowed to file articles of impeachment against President Obama should he move to act on Gun Control via Executive Order.  Former US Attorney General Edwin Messe also agreed that any action by the President that restricts the Second Amendment and bypasses congress is an impeachable offense.


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