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Obama’s Executive Actions on Guns Will Help . . . Obama

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This much can be said for President Barack Obama’s executive decrees on gun control: By shifting some federal funds into intervention for the mentally ill, he at least acknowledges, in some small part, one of the key problems.

As for the rest . . .

President Obama will seek to rejigger some of the licensing rules in such a way as to cause some casual sellers of firearms to fall within the federal definition of “firearms dealer,” and thus oblige them to obtain federal dealers’ licenses and to perform background checks before selling a gun. What kind of well-thought-out criteria will the government use to determine that somebody is a firearms dealer under federal law? Whether he has a business card is one consideration (really) and whether he processes credit cards is another. Given the ubiquity of credit-card-processing technology attached to mobile phones, this could very well present a significant expansion of the legal definition of firearms dealer under federal law. The president insists that he is acting within preexisting statutory authority; he has been wrong about that before, and the inevitable litigation may show him to be wrong this time around, too: The relevant statutes make no reference to such considerations as the president is putting forward.

The so-called gun-show loophole, which doesn’t actually exist, refers to the fact that people who are not professionally engaged in the business of selling firearms are not obliged to become licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) if, say, they sell an old shotgun at a garage sale, or sell a brother-in-law an old deer rifle for $50. Similarly, if you hang a “For Sale” sign in the window of your 1983 Honda Prelude, you need not become a licensed automobile dealer. This purported loophole covers sales made anywhere, not only at gun shows or online. It isn’t clear that this would have any impact on criminals’ acquisitions of guns — unlicensed sales at gun shows are not a large source of firearms used in crimes — and, at any rate, the president is here a bit behind the times: Many gun shows keep FFL-holders on site to perform background checks, and online gun shops, which are licensed dealers, ship exclusively to other FFLs in order to secure legal transfer. Many casual sellers do the same thing, because they have strong incentives to secure legal transfer of the firearms they sell.

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Additional reading – Universal background checks do little to stop mass shootings, study finds

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