Does Obama's gun proposals and actions violate the 2nd Amendment rights of individuals?
Gun violence in the past year has brought increased support for action to be taken to help prevent shootings such as the one in Connecticut. While there is an increase in the willingness of individuals as reported to support changes in gun control laws the changes made must not violate the rights of individuals to bear arms as defined in the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. On Wednesday January 18, 2013 President Obama present his proposals for congressional action along with actions he feels he has the authority to take as President.
There has been mixed reaction by Congress with regards to the actions being proposed. Many of the actions appear to make sense but there is a cost to implement some of the legislative proposals presented by President Obama. The cost factor may be an issue with the economic constraints currently in place in our economy. This does not mean that the actions are not warranted and/or do not have justification only that the cost factor will be an issue for it requires re-allocating funds which is always an issue.
The first element presented in the proposal identifies requiring criminal background checks for all guns sales including private sellers. This concept without question is a good one to impose but the accuracy of the system that performs the check must be accurate, complete and reliable. Having these characteristics will be critical to accomplish the objective of this proposal. While there may currently be some sort of system to perform background checks bringing in private sellers into the process may be difficult to enforce. The key to include private sellers is having a reliable database which identifies all private gun owners and monitoring their actions with regards to their ownership of guns. This aspect may violate the 2nd Amendment rights of those who own guns as it may be considered an invasion of privacy. Recently the names of gun owners and addresses were published in a newspaper and when the state passed a new law the newspaper removed information to comply with the new law.
Changes to gun laws at the state level and those that are currently in place may lessen the need for action at the national level though state laws may have some differences in the requirements from one state to another. Additionally there is a proposal to ban all assault weapons which on the surface appears in concept to be a good idea. Private citizens under normal circumstances do not need assault weapons to protect themselves and their families which in most cases is the reason for individuals to own guns. Together with the proposal to ban assault weapons is the proposal to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
Other actions being proposed for Congress to consider involve providing funding to keep thousands of police officers on the job and provide up-to-date training along with other first responders to keep them safe. To me this would be a good step forward and would be money well spent. Being prepared is critical to keep our first responders safe. The amount of funding being proposed in the actions described above is not much and may well not provide the financial resources required to meet the objective.
The availability of individuals who have documented mental health issues to obtain guns is an issue which has been involved in some of the mass shootings. While all individuals under the Constitution have the right to bear arms keeping individuals who do not have the capability to comprehend right from wrong in using guns or have health issues which should restrict their access would not in my mind violate the 2nd Amendment. Gun owners need to understand the responsibilities of gun ownership
Another aspect associated with the state of mental health of individuals and restricting their access to purchasing guns while it may be needed opens the process for abuse of the information. Health records of individuals is a matter of privacy and letting individuals who are not part of the health industry is a questionable practice at best. There may some opportunity to having a list such as the type for the airline industry but it has had its problems with names on the list and names that should have been on the list. There are situations where individuals have the same name and one may have issues and another does not. Distinguishing between these two individuals in a large database is a problem in terms or reliability and accuracy.
The above constitutes actions which must be addressed through Congress but there is a long list of actions for which the President is considering the option of issuing executive orders. The content of the list has several positive topics while others may be questionable as it depends on how the details are addressed in the implementation.
The list of executive actions which will in all probability be taken by executive orders. One action is to direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals who should be prohibited from having a gun. This is connected to a database in which individuals will be identified restricting their access to guns. While I do not have a problem with the objectives of the list of executive actions identified by President Obama some are connected to actions which Congress must initiate. Another action refers to clarifying requirements of the health care act in preventing states from making sure information is available for background checks.
One important aspect which may be questionable is asking doctors to question their patients about guns in their homes. It is not the responsibility of a doctor responsibility to get involved with the question of gun ownership though there may be cases where individuals being treated have been shot. Another good initiative is helping to develop a model for emergency response plan for schools, house of worship and institutions of higher learning. This is an effort to address some examples of gun violence which has occurred in the past. Having a model response plan is a good initiative as there may be actions which can be taken to make these locations safer.
Mental health was also addressed in the list to be considered for executive action and is something which has been needed for too long. It involves mental health parity regulations and identifying what mental health services Medicaid must cover. Here again while the objective is to provide more services for mental health it is unclear as to source of the money to cover such services. While some states may be able to absorb such additional services based on their financial situation others will not be in that position.
I did not cover all of the actions identified in the executive actions list but it is important to note that executive orders cannot change the laws that are in place. They can however clarify aspects of current legislation passed by Congress where the authority to perform certain tasks may be questionable. Executive orders are not binding on private citizens and while some direction or clarification may be identified involving private citizens it is not binding for them to utilize the guidelines or clarifications included in them. It is hoped that some manner of gun regulations/actions will be accomplished but they need to be ones which will potentially have an impact on the present gun violence statistics. Common sense needs to be involved from all avenues to make improvements in the process and ones for which the public will accept as good decisions. Many individuals will be up for election in 2014 and when gun issues were part of the campaign topics some individuals lost their seats in states where gun ownership is a hot topic.