Reacting to news that the Obama administration will use executive action to curb gun violence, The Drudge Report titled its top story, “HEAD FAKE: OBAMA GOES AFTER GUNS.”
Obama reportedly seeks to restrict the importation of military grade firearms for civilian sale and close a loophole that allows felons to obtain highly dangerous guns without a background check. In contrast to fearmongering by Drudge Report, neither policy will interfere with the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
There is a longstanding and bipartisan tradition of the executive branch exercising discretion over the importation of dangerous weapons into the United States. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush used executive action to ban the importation of foreign-made semi-automatic assault weapons, directing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to only allow the importation of firearms “generally recognized as particularly suitable for, or readily adaptable to sporting purposes.” Bill Clinton took similar action during his presidency, using executive action to ban the importation of more than 50 types of assault weapons, specifically variations of the AK-47 and UZI firearms.
A press release from the Obama administration explained the reasoning for banning the importation of military grade weapons:
When the United States provides military firearms to its allies, either as direct commercial sales or through the foreign military sales or military assistance programs, those firearms may not be imported back into the United States without U.S. government approval. Since 2005, the U.S. Government has authorized requests to reimport more than 250,000 of these firearms.
Today, the Administration is announcing a new policy of denying requests to bring military-grade firearms back into the United States to private entities, with only a few exceptions such as for museums. This new policy will help keep military-grade firearms off our streets.
Vice President Joe Biden will also reportedly announce plans to close a loophole that allows prohibited gun owners to bypass background check requirements for highly restricted weapons by placing those weapons in legal trusts. The loophole arises from the regulations surrounding National Firearms Act Class III weapons -- a category that includes fully automatic machineguns, short barrel shotguns and silencers -- that allow the weapons to be owned by a legal entity. This means that the actual owner is not subject to heightened requirements for owning Class III weapons that include a background check, fingerprinting, and the approval of local law enforcement. According to The New York Times, rogue police officer Christopher Dorner -- who killed four people including members of law enforcement during a February rampage -- claimed in a rambling diatribe to have used the loophole to obtain silencers.
The Obama administration executive action will still allow firearms to be held in trust, but will require associated individuals to undergo background checks.
Conservative media previously baselessly stoked fears surrounding the Obama administration's efforts to use executive action to curb gun violence. In December 2012, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the Obama administration announced 23 executive actions on gun violence. These actions focused on improving the background check system, bolstering law enforcement resources, providing funding for research on gun violence, and helping improve school security. No mention was made of restricting the availability of already legal firearms.
Still conservative media framed the actions as a gun grab or as evidence that America was turning into Nazi Germany.