San Bernardino Shooting And Gun Control: Obama Weighs Executive Orders

Robert Jonathan

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino, California, mass shootings that left 14 people dead and many injured, President Obama and his White House lawyers are huddling about possible executive orders for additional gun control regulations.

Other politicians, including Hillary Clinton, have expanded their saber rattling (as it were) for more gun control in the post-San Bernardino environment, as has much of the news media, which initially focused on the irrelevant proximity of the crime scene to a local Planned Parenthood clinic.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch oddly deemed the San Bernardino shooting "a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful moment to really make significant change," which presumably is Washington code for more gun control via executive action.

Gun control proponents apparently are hoping that Obama will or would put forth his executive orders on the upcoming December 14 anniversary of the horrible mass shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, which occurred three years ago. It is unclear at this writing as to whether any announcement will take place in that time frame, however.

While in Paris for a climate change conference last week, Obama disclosed at a press conference that he was considering invoking his administrative powers in the absence of action by Congress or state and local governments.

The president also said that the U.S. is the only country plagued with mass shootings, even though Paris itself was just devastated by a mass terrorist shooting on Friday, November 13.

On the day before Thanksgiving, the president proclaimed that "we know of no specific and credible intelligence indicating a plot on the homeland."

On Thursday, Obama suggested that it was possible that the San Bernardino massacre was terrorist related or workplace violence. For years, the Obama administration repeatedly insisted that the Fort Hood shooting carried out by Major Nidal Hasan (now on death row in Fort Leavenworth) was workplace violence despite evidence to the contrary.

The FBI is now officially conducting the probe into the San Bernardino attack as a terrorism investigation, however. ISIS has since described the husband-and-wife team who carried out the attack as supporters, but not necessarily members of the terrorist group.

In his weekly radio address today, Obama conceded that "It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror."

As one component of its plan to bypass Congress, the Obama administration is reportedly focusing on the so-called gun show loophole, but this corrective action is actually directed at requiring background checks for private sales or transfers of guns, not dealer transactions.

Obama advocates common sense gun safety laws, but apparently his team determined that it is easier said than done, although the process for executive orders is nonetheless underway, in consultation with gun control advocates.

"But top White House advisers say they are still struggling to find a way for Mr. Obama to use his executive powers and tighten restrictions on gun sales, sidestepping a gridlocked Congress. While he has ordered officials to find ways for him to act unilaterally, aides said they have run into legal and political hurdles that make that difficult," the New York Times reported. "The White House has focused its deliberations on an executive action that would detail who should be considered a high-volume gun dealer, a move that could expand background checks to a huge number of sales at gun shows, online, and elsewhere that now fall outside the law."

Given this state of affairs, The American Interest claims that a renewed gun control push from Washington is an exercise in futility.

"Most gun control advocates know that the push for federal gun laws is futile. Public support for gun rights is near historical highs, the structure of the U.S. Senate favors pro-gun forces, and—as many observers pointed out at the time—if the tragedy at Sandy Hook couldn't get gun legislation through the Congress, nothing can, at least for the foreseeable future. But liberal decision to make the San Bernardino massacre a story about gun control is more than futile—it is fundamentally disconnected from the role the Second Amendment has played in American political thought, and therefore might be even less effective than past efforts."
"Since [the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon], White House officials have been trying to draft an executive order that would reinterpret existing law to require all or most gun sales to go through the background check system...Requiring background checks for all weapons sales might not have had any effect on Wednesday's shootings in San Bernardino...The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has determined that Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two shooters, legally purchased two of the weapons at a gun shop in Corona. Two others were legally purchased and given to him by a friend...In most other mass shootings in recent years, the perpetrators also purchased their weapons legally through licensed firearms dealers."

The couple who perpetrated the San Bernardino attack "had amassed an armory of weapons and explosives in their Redlands home, including a dozen pipe bombs and thousands of rounds of ammunition," and had the capability to mount a second attack had they not been intercepted by cops, the Los Angeles Times separately chronicled. "[P]olice recovered a dozen pipe bombs, 2,000 9-millimeter handgun rounds, 2,500.223-caliber assault rifle rounds and 'hundreds of tools' that could have been used to make additional explosive devices."

Preventing guns from falling into the hands of those who are mentally ill may be something that both parties can agree upon, House Speaker Paul Ryan has indicated.

Setting aside that issue, gun rights advocates have long maintained that government interventions that infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens (and, they believe, could ultimately lead to gun confiscation) will have minimal impact on street criminals and terrorists who can readily obtain weapons via the underground economy.

In an appearance on CBS News This Morning, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio outlined why he voted against the proposals, adding that his home state of Florida already requires a background check.

"None of these crimes that have been committed, or in this case what I believe is a terror attack in California, would have been prevented by the expanded background checks… This terrorist that was able to access these weapons is not someone that would have wound up in any database, and this is one of the risks of home-grown violent extremism… I have a concealed weapons permit so that means that my background check is done by telephone, not a three-day wait period and so forth. But what they are trying to do now it would not solve any of these problems, and in fact, would impede the Second Amendment right of a large number of Americans."

Against the backdrop of the San Bernardino terrorist rampage, do you think that President Obama should use unilateral executive action to "pull the trigger" on new gun control regulations?

[Photo by San Bernardino County Sherrif's Department via Getty Images]