Trashing President Barack Obama appears to be one of the favorite pastimes of many Alabamians, but it still is hard to understand the complaints about his recent executive actions regarding guns.
To quickly dispense with the most common refrain, Obama’s executive actions take guns away from no one. If they are effective — and because he took great pains to avoid exceeding his authority, that’s questionable — the executive actions may prevent some people from buying guns.
So is he preventing you from buying guns?
The answer is “yes.” He is indeed depriving you of the ability to purchase guns from some sellers if any of the following apply:
n You have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution;
n You have been convicted of, or are under indictment for, a felony;
n You are a fugitive from justice;
n You have been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity;
n You are an unlawful user of controlled substances;
n You have been convicted of domestic violence; or
n You are an undocumented immigrant.
If indeed you fall into one of these categories, existing law already prevented you from purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer. This is because licensed dealers are required to run you through a background check. So if you are a convicted felon, or if you have been involuntarily committed for a severe mental condition, you have some reason to be angry at Obama’s executive orders.
Before the orders, you easily could purchase anything from a handgun to a military-style semiautomatic rifle in a private sale. This is often referred to as the “gun show loophole,” although many gun sellers at such shows are licensed, and therefore still were required to perform the background checks. The executive orders will make it slightly more difficult for a seller to fit into the private sale exemption, an exemption that increasingly is being used for online sales.
But even if you are a convicted felon, an undocumented immigrant, or have been convicted of domestic abuse, don’t worry too much. The private sale exemption still exists; it will simply be more difficult for a high-volume gun seller to use it to avoid the requirement of running you through the database that will block the sale.
And if you are under the age of 18, don’t worry. You can still buy a gun from a family member or friend with no background check.
For those who want to buy a gun and are not convicted felons, undocumented immigrants, spouse abusers, etc., the only direct effect of Obama’s effort is positive. By increasing the number of people hired to perform the background checks, they should be even speedier.
It’s hard to believe any responsible gun owners truly oppose a background check that prevents guns from being sold to felons and those with severe mental illness. The executive actions will serve as no impediment to the “good guys with guns” who are so frequently mentioned by the National Rifle Association and the manufacturers who support it. They will serve as a slight impediment to the “bad guys” who have no business buying guns.