LIMA – It is one of the more divisive issues in American politics and President Barack Obama further widened that gap Tuesday with his announcement of an executive order aimed at curbing gun violence in the United States.
On Tuesday, Obama came out with his plans for expanded background checks and other measures. Obama’s 10-point plan for tougher gun restrictions received the expected response from opponents of the measure, however, the move also marked a concession that he will leave office without securing new gun control laws he’s repeatedly tried to get Congress to pass.
The centerpiece of Obama’s plan is an attempt to narrow the loophole that exempts gun sales from background checks if the seller isn’t a federally registered dealer. With new federal “guidance,” the administration is clarifying that even those who sell just a few weapons at gun shows, flea markets or online can be deemed dealers and required to conduct checks on prospective buyers. During his announcement, Obama took a combative tone and once broke into tears, referring to the Dec. 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. He surrounded himself with several victims of past gun violence, including former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Barden, whose son was shot to death at Sandy Hook.
Local response was just as divided on the issue as it has been nationally. Lima Mayor David Berger was supportive of the president’s announcement.
“I support the steps being taken by the president to do all that is possible within his executive authority to improve gun safety and reduce gun violence,” Berger said.
He added that there is still more to be done.
“I also believe that the Congress must take additional common sense steps to ensure as much as possible that illegal guns do not get into the hands of the mentally ill and those otherwise stipulated under the law as not allowed to possess guns,” he said.
Berger is the only local mayor who is part of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The group operates under the umbrella of Everytown For Gun Safety, a national group aimed at stopping gun violence.
Not all elected officials have taken the same outlook on the president’s announcement. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said the move will not solve anything.
“The president’s executive order will not do a thing to protect innocent Americans from violent criminals, but rather will make us less safe by weakening the Second Amendment freedoms of law-abiding Americans, a move which is par for the course for a president with a record of targeting the First Amendment speech rights of law-abiding Americans through the IRS and the First Amendment religious liberties of law-abiding Americans through Obamacare,” Jordan said. “The Obama administration should quit targeting law-abiding Americans and come up with proposals that address what law-abiding Americans are actually concerned about: Keeping terrorists from coming to the U.S.”
Allen County Prosecutor Juergen Waldick said the announcement was wrong in so many ways that he didn’t know where to start.
“As a county prosecutor, this did nothing to help me prosecute gun crimes,” Waldick said. “In fact, it was destructive. Many people will now think they are living in a safer place when the measure was completely useless.”
Waldick said that legally, the president overstepped his bounds in making laws, something he said is prohibited. He said that executive orders were designed for policy rather than creating legislation. He said the order only punishes law-abiding gun owners and that criminals will not go through legal methods to obtain the weapons.
Waldick criticized the president for having victims “paraded across the stage,” indicating the order was for political means.
Jane Myers, of Wapakoneta, a local representative of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, disagreed with that outlook and praised the president’s announcement. Myers’ group also operates under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety.
“It is an absolute improvement of clarifying existing laws no matter why you buy guns,” Myers said. “People are selling guns, but don’t have a license. This will create a definition of who is a seller.”
Myers added that the order will give law officials the tools they need to prosecute criminals.
Both sides have argued about what would be clearly defined as a “dealer” under the new proposal. Myers said it would not prevent a brother selling a gun to another brother, while Waldick said, “It is my understanding from what I have heard that every gun transaction will require a background check.”
Myers said that too many people are able to sell at shows or over the Internet without a license. She said many of those guns tend to find their way to Chicago, known for its gun violence. She said many people also don’t have the proper training.
“That is why babies are getting shot,” Myers said. “We need to protect the children.”
Republican congressional candidate Warren Davidson, who is running for former Speaker John Boehner’s seat, issued a strong disapproval of the order.
“President Obama’s perverse use of language from the Declaration of Independence to cover his contempt for our Second Amendment rights will not distract the American people from both the unconstitutionality of the content of the orders nor the illegality of his attempts to legislate by pen stroke.”
Both Waldick and Davidson said the move was a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at Twitter@LanceMihm.