Executive orders - solutions looking for problems

The list of 23 executive orders relating to gun control has come out of the White House, and it's a doozy. Let's look at each and see how it addresses the problems of a) mass shootings and b) inner-city gun violence.

  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
    Irrelevant - no evidence that background checks affect mass shootings.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
    Irrelevant - see above.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
    Irrelevant - see above.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
    Irrelevant - no evidence that people known to be dangerous are allowed to hold guns.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
    Irrelevant - no evidence that shooters have previously had a seized gun returned.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
    Mostly irrelevant - though probably a good idea on its own.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
    Worth a try - though probably about as effective as any government campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
    Irrelevant - no evidence that breaking into gun safes or picking gun locks is a problem.
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
    Stupendously irrelevant - and probably very expensive, generating swathes of gun-tracing bureaucracy.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
    Probably irrelevant though no harm in it.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
    WTF? I mean, seriously?
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
    Good idea as long as this isn't pushing unproven wishful thinking and isn't mandatory.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
    Nonsense on stilts - anyone think law enforcement is just idly letting gun crime happen. Goodness only knows what directives this will be used to push.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
    Maybe interesting though it depends whether the CDC is implicitly directed to produce a predetermined result, or if it can actually do real research and publish the results no matter how inconvenient for the administration's narrative.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
    Pointless - there's already an active market in gun safety, how is government interference going to help?
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
    Good idea - although worrying that the ACA may reasonably be interpreted this way. Which idiot drafted it and which idiot signed it in this form?
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
    Good idea - with the above caveats.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
    Pointless pork - how will these "resource officers" prevent gun deaths?
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
    Moderately good idea though really it's just "call 911, shoot back if you can, run if you can, barricade if you can't shoot or run." Wonder how much it'll cost.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
    Maybe helpful in some areas but with the scope to be mostly irrelevant to the actual problem.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
    Completely irrelevant - smuggling more ACA changes through.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
    Potentially helpful but in practice probably irrelevant.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.
    Must - resist - self - oh, whom am I kidding? Public wringing of hands, unlikely to make any difference.

Nearly all of these are irrelevant to the stated problems of gun violence and mass shootings. Several look like vehicles to smuggle through unrelated legal changes. The good ideas should be very cheap to implement, as long as the federal government can avoid piling onto them and generating additional bureaucracy.

This is why executive orders are generally a bad idea (I hope the UK government is taking notice). The lack of scrutiny means that the resulting directives are at best useless and at worst actively malevolent.

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