President Barak Obama will announce a series of executive actions designed to reform gun laws on Tuesday, bypassing congress.
According the White House officials, the move will aim at expanding background checks for firearms and at improving the enforcement of existing laws.
The limited scope of his power in this area, however, will mean that any new measures will fall short of the more robust program he failed to get through congress earlier in his tenure.
Where the original version sought to close a set of legal loopholes that allow millions to purchase firearms without background checks at guns shows or on some websites, his executive action will serve more as a reminder to those who make a living selling guns that they are legally obliged to register as a gun dealer and that they are required to run background checks.
Government officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will also be contacting gun sellers in order to clarify a modest new set of standards for classing someone as a gun dealer. These include things like whether the seller has a business card, whether they have a website, and whether they sell the weapons in their original packaging.
“We have to be very clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country,” the President said on Monday. “It’s not going to prevent every mass shooting; it’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal.”
Even the NRA (National Rifle Association), typically staunch opponents of any attempts to regulate gun sales, admit the new measures are pretty weak.
“This is it, really?” asked Jennifer Baker, a lobbyist for the group. “This is what they’ve been hyping for how long now? This is the proposal they’ve spent seven years putting together? They’re not really doing anything” she said.
But despite its legislative modesty, Mr. Obama’s political opponents have been quick to say otherwise. Donald Trump, for instance, a republican presidential hopeful, said “pretty soon, you won’t be able to get guns.”
Ultimately, the President found himself caught between the need to act — hence the executive action — and legal challenges to his authority that could block his orders for the remainder of his presidency — hence the modesty.
Mr. Obama erred on the side of caution, ensuring his actions were well within his legal authority; unfortunately these weaker actions are unlikely to change very much.