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COLUMN: Safeguard Second Amendment Rights by Enforcing Current Laws

January 11, 2016
Weekly Column and Op-Ed
By Rep. Dan Newhouse

Last week, President Obama announced his unilateral executive measures on gun control. Under the President’s measures, federal licensing laws will be expanded, and some occasional sellers of their personal firearms may now fall under the federal definition of a “firearms dealer,” which will require them to obtain federal dealers’ licenses. I am greatly concerned that these measures will be used by federal bureaucrats to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. The President’s latest action would not even have prevented the recent terrorist attacks that he has cited as his justification, including the attacks in San Bernardino, California, where the weapons used were purchased legally under some of the strictest gun laws in the country. This announcement fits the President’s pattern of bypassing Congress, pushing the limits on executive authority and chipping away at the separation of powers when he does not get his way.

Sadly, this is not the first time that this administration has attempted to act outside the legislative process to undermine the Second Amendment rights of Americans. Last year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) began a misguided attempted to restrict the use of popular ammunition for legal firearms. I opposed ATF’s backdoor attempt, and in the face of opposition from Congress and the American people, the ATF backed down.

Instead of new gun control laws, the Obama Administration should enforce laws that are already on the books. Under federal law, it is already illegal for felons to purchase firearms and ammunition or to knowingly sell to them. What is this administration’s track record on enforcing current laws? According to data from the Department of Justice, federal weapons prosecutions have fallen to the lowest levels in over a decade under the Obama Administration. The Administration should enforce the laws that currently exist instead of proposing new orders that harm law-abiding citizens. 

For these reasons, in response to the President’s executive actions, I cosponsored H.R. 4321: the “Separation of Powers Restoration and Second Amendment Protection Act.” This bill provides that any executive action issued by the President that infringes on the powers and duties of Congress under section 8 of Article I of the Constitution or the Second Amendment, would have no force or effect.

This president’s record on Second Amendment rights demands vigilant oversight from Congress. The Administration should enforce the many laws that exist to reduce gun violence, not restrict Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans. I took an oath to defend all constitutional rights of Americans, including the Second Amendment. I take this oath seriously, and I will be vigilant in protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans.