Hint: He didn’t sign 23 executive orders


Who got it wrong? According to Slate:

  • CNN: Brooke Baldwin, Carl Azuz, Wolf Blitzer
  • FOX News: Dana Perino, Neil Cavuto
  • NPR: Neal Conan
  • Slate: David Weigel

But that list is incomplete. Here are more media outlets that either claimed President Obama had signed 23 executive orders or that referred to any signing action on Wednesday as an executive order:

You won’t find any executive orders dated this week on the WhiteHouse website .

What you will find are presidential — or executive — actions. Action: to do something. Executive order: official, consecutively-numbered, legally-binding directives to federal administrative agencies usually designed to “implement congressionally-established law.”

And this week President Obama talked about 23 actions. Not 23 executive orders.

What he signed were three executive memoranda, documents that direct his executive agencies to do certain things.

  1. Presidential Memorandum — Engaging in Public Health Research on the Causes and Prevention of Gun Violence
  2. Presidential Memorandum — Improving Availability of Relevant Executive Branch Records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System
  3. Presidential Memorandum — Tracing of Firearms in Connection with Criminal Investigations

I ask you: do any of these measures sound like they are an infringement on the Second Amendment?

I don’t think you can look at them honestly and answer that question with any word other than “no.”

And no one (except Slate) has corrected these oh-so-very-easy-to-edit stories or headlines.

Now, as to the misinformation that led to tweets like this and Congressional calls for impeachment.

  • Did Obama ban “military-style assault weapons”? No.
    Did he call on Congress to try to fashion such a law? Yes.
  • Did Obama limit magazines to 10 rounds? No.
    Did he call on Congress to try to fashion such a law? Yes.
  • Did Obama ban armor-piercing bullets? No.
    Did he call on Congress to try to fashion such a law? Yes.

About that Memorandum On Research

Did you know … that Congress has limited CDC research on gun violence … since 1996? The Congressional ban was led by former Arkansas Republican U.S. Rep. Jay Dickey.

[T]he Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control,” and some members of Congress have claimed this prohibition also bans the CDC from conducting any research on the causes of gun violence. However, research on gun violence is not advocacy; it is critical public health research that gives all Americans information they need. (page 8, pdf)

President Obama is directing the CDC to begin the research process with current dollars and is asking Congress to allocate $10 million for the CDC to investigate “the relationship between video games, media images, and violence.” Good luck on that one: the tech industry, Hollywood and the NRA will be in bed together in opposition.

But public health professionals applaud this initiative, as should anyone who, since Sandy Hook, has muttered “the problem isn’t guns, it’s our mental health system.”

The issue of gun violence is complex and deeply rooted, which is why we must take a comprehensive public health approach to ensuring our families and communities are safe. We must place a renewed emphasis on improving gun injury and violence research and expanding access to mental health services to those who most need it. Today’s proposal represents a real opportunity to make long-lasting progress on reducing gun violence. Congress must also get to work on real action.

The Obama Plan Regarding Gun Violence

The plan announced this week was the culmination of a fast-track task force led by Vice President Biden.

It held 22 meetings, most of them in the same week and many stretching past two hours, Biden furiously scribbling notes in a black leather-bound spiral notebook. The group collected ideas from 229 organizations — or, as Biden put it in a speech last week, “reviewing just about every idea that had been written up only to gather dust on the shelf of some agency.”

Here’s the plan. Read it (pdf). Contact your Senators and Representative about it.

But don’t keep saying he is making these things happen by circumventing Congress and the law.

Cause it ain’t true.

PS: Neither is the NRA ad about armed guards at the school attended by Obama’s daughters and NBC newsman David Gregory.

Updated: Slate has fixed their headline.

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KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst
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I don’t cut the populace any slack when it comes to stupid and paranoid attitudes, but it sure doesn’t help when the media they depend on for information is so slipshod. Apparently they just copy each others inaccurate stories.


“Obama Willing to Use Executive Orders on Gun”
So I guess the venerable NYT, which I subscribe to, also added an element of confusion leading up to the “signing” on Wednesday.
Oh, is this another snipe? :-)


No snipe since you used “venerable”. :-)


KG, you can look and listen to Biden using executive order and action interchangably and in the same sentence on 1/9/2013, at about 4:34, here: http://uneditedpolitics.com/vice-president-joe-biden-press-briefing-after-nra-meeting-the-president-is-going-to-act-there-are-executive-orders-1913/

I do think that the interchangeability of the action, order, memorandum is a little technical and overblown.
BTW: several WH people have misused decimate to imply almost complete destruction of AQ, when the word decimate means 1/10. Just saying to your point that words can be misused and reported.


What dd said.

It’s like when people want Congress to declare an Act of War, instead of allowing the War Powers Act to stand, not realizing all the statutes – some quite drastic – that would be activated were war officially declared by Congress.

There is probably some legal concern about using “terrorist” when officials are describing particular actions as well. We have so many laws and statutes, it’s doubtful any one person knows the ramifications of them all. Not that it would matter to those decrying “executive orders” even if they did understand the difference.

Misspeaking in the modern electronic world is also more likely than when one had to sit and write a letter to state a position. But certainly reports should be as accurate as possible and it’s up to certified journalists (would that there were such a thing) to strive for that.


“are the very same people confusing executive orders (written, legal, numbered documents) with “actions”.
And, verbally, like Biden, whose remark was reported on, if you count MSNBC.


Well, KG I do give a fig so please use your dates of choice if it helps make your “point”.
And, you can can the “I’m going to say this one more time” meme, it is a little pedantic.