WASHINGTON — President Obama’s new executive actions on gun control — with expanded background check requirements and boosted federal enforcement of gun laws — will face swift legal challenges that could land before the U.S. Supreme Court, and trigger an election-year firestorm.
“These are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and executive branch, but they are also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people including gun owners support and believe in,” Obama said yesterday.
The plan would expand the federal interpretation of those “in the business of dealing in firearms” — and therefore subject to federal licensing and background-check requirements — to include those who sell guns at gun shows and over the Internet just as in bricks-and-mortar gun stores. The number and frequency of gun sales will be taken into account to determine when such requirements will be triggered — a move perhaps made to ease concerns that gun owners may face onerous regulations for selling a single firearm. But even a few transactions combined could trigger the licensing and background-check requirements, a White House statement said.
Gun control opponents have promised to challenge Obama’s actions, which legal experts said could land before the nation’s highest court.
“This could set up another Supreme Court case over the Second Amendment,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional scholar at UCLA School of Law. “It seems pretty clear that Obama’s opponents are willing to challenge his executive actions whenever they see them.”
John Malcolm, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, said Obama “cannot change the law unilaterally.”
“The president may be frustrated the Congress” for failing to pass gun-control measures, Malcolm said. “That does not give him the authority to act unlawfully.”
Gun-control advocates urged the president to take decisive action.
Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said yesterday he wants the White House to “stop ‘bad apple’ gun dealers by aggressively enforcing existing laws.”
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