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Posted by on Jan 20, 2013 in Featured, Guns, Law | 12 comments

Meme-Busting: What, Exactly, Did Obama Do This Week Regarding Gun Policy?

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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