On January 5th, President Obama announced that he was taking executive action to increase the safety of Americans by regulating guns. His actions don’t reflect reality nor will they keep us any safer. All Americans should be very afraid of the implications of where the president and the Democrats will go to shred the 2nd Amendment and our right to medical privacy.
Americans are rightly grieved by the actions of madmen and terrorists who caused the slaughter of innocent children at the Sandy Hook School and the shootings at San Bernardino, California. If you watch 24-hour news channels all day, you might think the dead were piling up in our streets. I would suggest that the president’s actions are designed to tap in to the emotional fear created by this environment and encroach on the rights of law abiding Americans to own and carry firearms and shred our medical privacy rights.
Statistics constantly suggest that violent crime is at a 36-year low (Time, 2014). Gun deaths have declined by 31% since 1993 (Pew Research, 2015). You are more likely to die from cancer, lung problems, heart attack, or car crash than a gun assault (National Safety Council, 2011).
While crime and violence are at historic lows (with the exception of some metropolitan areas), the 24 hour media circus would have you believe that people are being shot, hanged, knifed, assaulted, murdered, and raped on every street corner all the time. Statistics reveal that is a misperception, not a reality. It is this media led misperception that President Obama and those opposed gun ownership are seeking to capitalize on.
The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is clear that law abiding Americans by right are allowed to keep and bear arms:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 in District of Columbia et. al. v. Heller and later in McDonald v. Chicago (2010) that gun ownership is an individual right unconnected with a militia and that this individual right is applicable in all states and cities.
Despite violent crime at historic lows and the individual right to own guns well established, President Obama has announced dangerous executive actions which fly in the face of liberty, practicality, and reality.
His proposals include background checks on private sales of guns between individuals, expanding the list of persons prohibited from purchasing guns to include those on the Terrorist No Fly List, and hiring new government agents to investigate gun transactions.
The most dangerous proposal would include putting your medical and mental health records in a database from which information could be used to end your right to own a gun.
According to the New York Daily News (January 5, 2016), “Attorney General Loretta Lynch has also sent a letter to states highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions of persons disqualified from buying firearms because of a mental illness.”
It would seem rational that we would want to prevent lunatics from owning guns. But how do we define mental illness? Anyone who takes Xanex? Anyone who has sought therapy in the last five years? Think of this: your therapist, doctor, or lawyer may one day be forced to “mandatory report” you to the government if you actually seek help for a mental health challenge.
According to Reason Magazine (January 5, 2016), the president’s plan would:
“Among other things, the gun-related “executive actions” that President Obama is announcing today aim to ‘increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system.’ To put it another way, the president wants to encourage more people with mental problems to seek professional help while increasing the likelihood that doing so will result in the permanent loss of their Second Amendment rights. Those two goals may prove hard to reconcile.”
We all should be frightened of the ramifications of this quotation. Americans have long enjoyed the privacy of our medical records enshrined in the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPAA).
Passed in 1996, HIPAA it is this federal law that sets a national standard to protect medical records and other personal health information. The rule defines what is “protected health information” and how this information is shared with others such as doctors, insurers, caregivers and when and how your permission is required for such sharing of information.
The possible implications of President Obama’s executive gun play could lead to our protected health information being breached, in violation of HIPAA, to decide who should have guns, drive a car, be teacher, or an airline pilot. Imagine that your visit to a drug rehab or trip to your counselor now being the basis upon which your rights, privileges, and future employment are denied.
The president wants those on the Terrorist No Fly List to also be barred from purchasing firearms. The problem is that this is the same Terrorist No Fly List that stopped then Senator Kennedy from flying (August 2004). According to CNN other dangerous terrorists flagged on the Terrorist No Fly List include singer Cat Stevens, U.S. Representative John Lewis, and an 18-month-old toddler trying to fly on Jet Blue (CNN, December 7, 2015). No one really knows (except the CIA, maybe the FBI) who is on the Terrorist No Fly List or how you get off. It’s all part of our national security apparatus and you have little recourse as a citizen if you are on it.
President Obama wants to broaden background check requirements to include more private transactions. It’s impractical – some estimates hold that there are over 300 million guns in America. If I give a gun to my father for his birthday, do I have to do a background check on him? Broward County (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) passed a universal background check requirement in 1998 and as of this date, there have been zero – that’s right – zero prosecutions.
The president is dead wrong on this issue. His executive action may be unconstitutional and none of the actions can prevent bad people from doing bad things. Nothing in the president’s plan will stop another Sandy Hook or terrorist attack on our shores.
In each and every case where those who committed heinous acts of violence with guns did not commit suicide, it was good guys with guns who came to the rescue. Good guys with guns are protecting President Obama and Mrs. Clinton (who don’t seem ready to give up their protection). Americans deserve the same protection as our officials who enjoy armed security at our expense. That protection is embodied in our right to keep and bear arms for protection. Remember those who would take your rights away from you when you vote in the upcoming November elections.
The Rev. Gus Kein is a retired pastor and civil rights activist living in Fort Lauderdale.