The school massacre in Newtown sparked a popular outcry for changes to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies.
As a first measure, the expired ban on assault weapons should be reinstated. But such legislation has met with the firm opposition of many lawmakers who support permissive policies on firearms use.
The influence of the National Rifle Association and its lobbyists is so powerful that even in President Obama’s healthcare reform, they included a clause that specifically prohibited doctors from collecting “any information relating to the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition.”
For that reason, the outlook is not good that the House of Representativesespecially under Republican controlwould pass laws furthering gun control. In this case, President Obama has the option of issuing an Executive Order as his predecessors have done.
The scope of this action is limited, because it cannot create, change or void laws, much less amend the Constitution, as some gun control opponents allege.
The White House, as the Executive Branch of government, can internally order the strict enforcement of laws and change priorities, as it has done in the area of immigration.
It could, for example, make background checks more efficient, punish those who register firearms under false names, and ensure better oversight of gun shops and private sales at gun shows, among other measures. There are many laws and regulations that can be given priority.
This would lay bare the hypocrisy of those who argue that what we need are not more laws, but the enforcement of existing ones. At the same time, those same people do all they can to sabotage such efforts, preventing the modernization of records, cutting funding for oversight, and blocking the operation of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
President Obama should not hesitate to use the resources he has at his disposal. It is not enough, but it could make a big difference.