Don’t worry, gun lovers, President Obama can only do so much to regulate your babies.
“His options are limited,” Adam Winkler, constitutional scholar at the UCLA School of Law, said by phone Friday. “He can seek to better enforce existing federal law, but he can’t act contrary to existing federal law.”
Winkler and others say Obama can install changes like new importation limits on weapons, tougher law-enforcement policies and greater cooperation between federal agencies sharing criminal and mental-health records – all without Congress’s blessing.
Biden and other administration officials are holding their cards very close to the vest, but past actions from the White House – combined with some of the vice president’s brief public comments from this week – lend some clues about what type of executive actions might be under consideration.
Much of the focus seems to be on efforts to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), an FBI database through which licensed gun dealers are required to screen potential buyers before selling weapons. Under federal law, felons, illegal immigrants, drug abusers, spousal abusers and the severely mentally ill may not buy or own firearms. But the system is riddled with holes, as many states – and even federal agencies – have declined to share records with NICS.