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Sun., Jan. 27, 2013

Smart Bombs: Critics fire before aiming

Would it kill the people who are mortified by presidential executive orders and their alleged assault on the Constitution to at least read the founding document? “Executive power” is in there. Executive orders are how it’s carried out.

The latest complaint relates to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns, but it suggests that he is routinely abusing his power. In his first term, he issued 144 executive orders, which puts him on pace for 288 over two terms. Here are the totals for other two-term presidents: George W. Bush, 291; Bill Clinton, 364; Ronald Reagan, 381; and Dwight Eisenhower, 484. Calvin Coolidge issued 1,203 in six years. Franklin Roosevelt issued 3,522 over 12 years.

But it’s Obama’s orders – especially those related to guns – that have triggered calls for legislative action. U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, are working together on a bill to “thwart Obama’s unlawful orders.” As Stockman put it, “No matter his intentions, the Constitution flatly prohibits the president from just making up his own laws.”

He obviously hasn’t studied previous presidents, who used executive orders to desegregate the military (Truman), desegregate schools (Eisenhower), outlaw racial discrimination in government housing, hiring and contracting (Kennedy and Johnson), bar the use of federal funds to “promote” abortion (Reagan) and rescind that abortion order (Clinton).

So let’s see how Obama intends to flex this power with his 23 executive actions on guns, and you judge whether legislation to block them is a proportionate and sensible response. Some examples:

• Require federal agencies to make data available to the federal background check system.

• Improve incentives to get more states to cooperate with background checks.

• Nominate a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

• Provide first responders and teachers with training on how to deal with shooters.

• Launch a national safety campaign.

• Finalize mental health parity legislation to broaden health care access.

All of them are that kind of “radical.” It would be helpful if critics would say why they object, rather than go off half-cocked and imply that the Constitution itself is in the president’s crosshairs.

BAD RAP. Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler posted a note on his office’s website urging people to contact their representatives in a campaign to push back against Obama’s executive actions on guns. He told the Bonner County Daily Bee, “I’ve been a strong advocate of the Second Amendment, and I’m always going to stand up to make sure that those rights are protected.”

He doesn’t say which of those actions he views as an infringement, but he’s not alone in proclaiming a generalized defiance. reports that at least 127 sheriffs have said they won’t enforce unspecified gun control measures. They’re unspecified because Congress hasn’t taken any action. But if it does, these sheriffs want you to know they’ll be opposed.

The irony is that they would be exercising executive powers that truly don’t exist. But if the law still matters to them, they might want to listen to Sheriff Grayson Robinson of Arapahoe County in Colorado, home of the movie theater massacre:

“Public safety professionals serving in the executive branch do not have the constitutional authority, responsibility, and in most cases, the credentials to determine the constitutionality of any issue. Law enforcement officials should leave it to the courts to decide whether a law is constitutional or not.”

Grant County Sheriff Tom Jones has also posted a public note declaring his allegiance to the Second Amendment. According to an article at, Jones “advocates improved background checks for people buying guns at stores, gun shows and through private sales; creating a system to verify who can legally own guns; improving mental health care; and establishing better partnerships in communities across the nation to help curb gun-related violence.”

Each one of these items is touched on by Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive actions.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter at @GaryCrooks.

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