Thursday, January 17, 2013

23 Harmless Bullets

On Wednesday, the President outlined 23 steps that he was taking in response to gun violence in this country.  Before he had finished his Top Ten list, the Far Right was in full revolt against what some of my friends refer to as Obama’s “unconstitutional power grab” and his “gun confiscation” proposals.  After reading all 23, I have no idea what they are talking about.

Here they are.  It’s a quick read.  If you see an “unconstitutional power grab” or a “gun confiscation” example amongst these bullet points (no pun intended), then please point it out to me:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system. Since the background system is ‘federal’, it seems to make sense that ‘federal’ agencies should make the necessary data available.

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.  The action word ‘address’ is sufficiently vague to the point where the phrase ‘power grab’ probably does not apply.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.  Incentives imply that states would still maintain free choice in the matter.

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.  This is otherwise known as “Enforcing the laws already on the books.”

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.  Proposing a rule or piece of legislation is the opposite of a power grab.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers. Publishing an instruction sheet on how to work an existing process is not “confiscation.”

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.  This is what the NRA says it does all the time.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).  A review does not equate to a mandate on anything, and making guns safer is actually a good thing that I would hope a majority of Americans support. We made cars safer and that seems to be constitutional.

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.  Catching bad guys with guns should be common sense.  I’m more shocked that this doesn’t happen already.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.  Releasing a report is constitutionally acceptable (see Nixon v. Warren Commission, 1973).

11. Nominate an ATF director.  The position has been vacant 6 years.  What took so long?

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.  Training sounds like something the Founding Fathers would have accepted as a reasonable restriction on public employees.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.  This one doesn’t deserve a point of its own but OK.  These efforts do not sound like they are outside the realm of good policy.  Most Americans favor prosecuting crimes.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.  This is research that the NRA does not want to happen, much as the tobacco industry thought studying the effects of smoking was a colossal waste of resources.

15. 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.  This is standard issue bully pulpit messaging, certainly within the President’s rights.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.  The doctor-patient relationship demands that any health risks be discussed in a confidential setting.  Nothing should be off limits.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.  Clarifying an existing law is not an example of tyranny in action.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.  Mental health assistance for school children who need it.  Is someone against this?

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.  Model plans for emergency response sounds benign.  If the final recommendations state in the first step, “Take everyone’s guns”, then you can complain.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover. See Comment under #17.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.  This has nothing to do with guns directly.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.  See Comment under #21.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.  This dialogue could lead to lower gun sales in the future, a major problem for the gun lobby, but I find no evidence of an impending dictatorship in this effort.

So what am I missing?

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