Gun control – or, as one might think of it, criminal violence control – will be a major focus of this week’s political news. The President is slated to meet today with Attorney General Lynch to examine his legal options for taking executive action on some gun control measures that he could not persuade Congress to adopt. Most notably, as Politico reported here, there is speculation that he will issue an executive order that redefines (by expanding) who a licensed firearms dealer is, thus allowing an expansion of the background check system. The President is also scheduled to hold a nationally televised town hall on CNN this Thursday night – at which he will likely either announce new action, discuss plans for new action, or, if he announces earlier in the week, explain in more detail the significance of his action. It is not the first time that President Obama has taken executive action on guns – he issued several executive orders in 2013 after the Sandy Hook massacre. To my knowledge, the sky has not fallen on gun rights in the time since those Orders.
I have stated before that I do not think this particular kind of proposal implicates the Second Amendment. Restrictions on the commercial sale of firearms, under Heller, are presumptively constitutional. The bigger constitutional question here is whether this is something the President can do through an executive order, or whether it requires an Act of Congress.
I will have more to say about the separation of powers angle, as well as the impact on federal criminal law, once the President formally acts. Meanwhile, I suspect that this will be the first of several gun-related posts this week.