On Monday the Obama Administration authorized, effective immediately, its first major gun regulation. The new rule requires weapons dealers in Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico to contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives when an individual purchases two or more semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines within a five-day period. Rifles purchased that fire ammunition .22 caliber or less are exempt from the regulatory measure.
The purpose of this new rule is to thwart illicit gun trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border whereby straw buyers purchase assault weapons for Mexican drug cartels and gangs. The rule will directly affect approximately 8,500 weapons dealers in those aforementioned border-States.
It should come as no surprise that this rule is considered, “controversial.” On one side, officials like Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new rule will help the ATF “detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations.” Moreover, advocates for the regulatory measure insist that it’s no different than a current, nation-wide rule that mandates compulsory reporting from gun dealers when an individual buys two or more handguns within a five-day period.
On the other side of issue, politicians like Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif), chairmen of the House Oversight Committee, lamented the ostensible superfluous nature of the new regulation, “In Operation Fast and Furious, gun dealers didn’t need this regulation, as they voluntarily provided ATF agents with information about suspected straw purchasers.” Others, like the NRA chief lobbyist Chris W. Cox, brought up the legal ramifications of the new rule and professed to, as they say, not go down without a fight, “ATF and the administration lack the statutory authority to do this, and the NRA will file suit as soon as ATF sends the first demand letters.”
Regardless of how one feels about the new rule, whether one thinks it to be a merited measure that will stymie gun trafficking and gang violence in Mexico or whether one believes it to be another step toward the full usurpation of our civil liberties, the fact that the rule was implemented should come as no surprise. That is to say, with regards to gun rights, Obama ran his presidency on the basis of “commonsense” gun reform and regulation. One can certainly debate the meaning or inherent contradiction between the terms “commonsense” and “gun regulation,” especially when the one is used to qualify the other in the same sentence, but this is a discussion for another time. The point is Obama has long since believed in gun reform and regulation even though, up until now, he’s played a relatively passive role on this front.
Consider, for example, his comments following the shooting in Tucson, AZ, when he wrote an opinion piece that was published in the Arizona Daily Star, he stated, “Most gun-control advocates know that most gun owners are responsible citizens. Most gun owners know that the word ‘commonsense’ isn’t a code word for ‘confiscation.”
The problem in his statement is obvious to all gun owners; “commonsense” (like “general welfare” or “reasonable doubt”) is a somewhat elusive and nebulous term, elusive and nebulous in that it means different things to different people.