The White House released a fact sheet on the new executive actions here. These are not executive orders, but actions. My understanding is that these are not legally binding in the same way that executive orders would be.
Obama has been stymied in his efforts to enact greater gun control during his terms. In anticipation of these actions, there was much hype about steps that he would take. Here are some highlights (I added numbers for ease of discussion):
Overall this seems like a lot of hype over not a lot of substance. In the news on Sunday and Monday there were stories about Obama and Lynch meeting in anticipation of this announcement and from the looks of it, it seems like a lot of restatement of existing laws and not a lot new items. For example:
#1 has always been the case. The existing definition of dealer is contained in 18 US Code 921(a)(11):
The key part being “engaged in the business”. That definition is from the same section (21)© and (d) as follows:
So Obama’s action #1 above does not change the existing landscape in any way. Those that are engaged in the business is not location specific and has always applied to gun shows or over the internet.
#2 is really about gun trusts and rule 41P. People use gun trusts to obviate the need for CLEO approval for NFA items. The clarification for rule 41P doesn’t really do much, the CLEO doesn’t get veto power and is more of an inform, and there are still background checks necessary. The rule is a bit vague on its use of “responsible persons” with respect to NFA items within the trust, but Obama’s action #2 is no barrier.
#3 says that, “To further encourage this reporting, the Attorney General has written a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified for mental health reasons, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence. The Administration will begin a new dialogue with States to ensure the background check system is as robust as possible, which is a public safety imperative.” So Lynch has written a letter and will begin a new dialogue. What a bunch of nothing.
#4 is about hiring more workers and improving technology systems - seems fine on its face.
#5 seems like more funding for enforcement and targeted prosecution. Seems fine, as long as it’s not the stupid antics the BATFE has been engaged in prior.
#6 seems fine too - guns lost or stolen in transit from dealer to dealer should be reported.
#7 is a memo. That’s nothing.
#8 is good. Mental health care funding can use help.
#9 is troubling but it depends on the clarification of the rules. This simply says, "The Social Security Administration (SSA) has indicated that it will begin the rulemaking process to ensure that appropriate information in its records is reported to NICS. " This idea got floated back in July and went no where. Stripping rights from people who have a rep payee but are otherwise capable seems like a violation of due process.
#10 is nothing. HIPPA isn’t the culprit for lack of state reporting so this will do nothing.
#11 is also nothing. in 90 days it’s a report on potential strategy.
So with all of this, it seems like more of the same from Obama. Big talk but a much less ambitious effort than he could have taken. Should he have done more? Could he have done more?