The frenzy over guns and gun control continues, and just to confirm there's a frenzy, this will be my second consecutive column devoted to guns. This is unprecedented, I tell you!
What really goosed up emotions about the gun debate was a pile of executive orders and actions that President Barack Obama announced last week to help address concerns about gun violence in this country (or alternately, that the president intends to force upon the American public in another irrevocable step toward tyranny and dictatorship).
A lot of the reporting about the executive actions and orders has focused on how gun advocates and conservatives are reacting to them. These reactions strongly suggest that these people have bypassed the important step of reviewing the presidential actions. Without any justification, they just went straight to concluding that the executive actions and orders violate the Second Amendment, and as such are part of a conspiracy to ban and confiscate guns. That being the case, the logic follows, President Obama is proceeding with his secret plan to take over as dictator.
Many otherwise intelligent people are taking this lazy and irresponsible approach to the president's actions and plans.
To get an idea of the public frenzy over the gun issue, check out Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly's personal Facebook page. On Sunday, he posted, without any of his own comment, a list of the 23 executive orders and actions that the president announced last week.
While some of the ensuing Facebook comments were reasonable and measured, expressing some level of support for the president's actions, most were, excuse the vulgarity, bat-shit crazy.
Here's a few of them:
• "This is basically a way to soften citizens up to removing guns with the U.N. small arms ban. I hope you, Pat Kelly, won't stand for that ban if it is put in place."
• "Pat, would you support a federal ban on magazines, rifles and handguns? I would like to know where you stand on the matter, as I'm sure a lot of Athenians would also like to know."
• "Just the first step in disarming Americans... Read your history books… (Obama's) a dictator!"
• "It's only a matter of time when the United States will become a police state."
• "All this is a plan to take the guns away from the honest people."
SO THOSE ARE SOME OF THE random, history-challenged geniuses who post on the sheriff's Facebook pages, though they can be found on any website or Facebook page, including ours. There's certainly no crime against over-reacting to NRA and FOX News propaganda, though what's most distressing is that the over-reaction isn't confined to Internet and Facebook riff-raff.
Over the past week, I've seen numerous op-eds by seemingly intelligent pundits who don't bother to question the basis of their opinions - that Obama's executive actions are unconstitutional. Or that Obama's stated plans to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, close the gun-shows loophole for background checks, and restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines, among others - could not become law without congressional approval. That legislative approval, of course, would have to include a majority in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives.
The same aggressive lack of intellectual curiosity about Obama's proposals, coupled with an apparent unawareness of the constitutional separation of powers, was displayed among the rural sheriffs around the country quoted last week saying they would refuse to enforce any of the president's gun-related actions.
According to an NBC News story: "In Minnesota, Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole told constituents in a letter that he would 'refuse' to carry out any federal law that infringed on his interpretation of the Second Amendment. Two Oregon sheriffs, Tim Meuller of Linn County and Jim Hensley of Crook County, said the same in letters to Vice President Joe Biden."
If I were in Sheriff Cole or these other sheriffs' counties, I would take their lead and decide not to abide by any law that I disagreed with - since misinformed disagreement rather than constitutional awareness is obviously the key ingredient in their announced refusal to go along with the president on gun control.
But seriously, these no-nothing sheriffs should get out of law enforcement pronto, since their respect for the law is so arbitrary and weak.
This phenomenon of concluding unconstitutionality without a shred of evidence isn't confined to Facebook commenters, right-wing pundits and bloggers, or thick-headed county sheriffs.
The newly re-elected president of the Ohio Board of Education got into hot water earlier this week when the Columbus Dispatch reported she had posted a meme on her personal Facebook page showing a picture of Adolf Hitler with the message, "Never forget what this tyrant said: 'To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.'"
The school official, Debe Terhar denied the meme was comparing President Obama with Hitler, but rather was intended to show people the danger of "disarming citizens, and this has happened throughout history."
Her disavowal was not believable.
Coming soon after the president's speech about the Sandy Hook school massacre, outlining the need for action to stem gun violence, the comparison to Obama was obvious (if historically and factually flawed - Hitler never made that statement or attempt to disarm the vast majority of his countryman, and the overwhelming majority of nations now and in the past that have enacted and enforced stricter gun control than we have, have managed to avoid falling into tyranny).
But again, none of the 23 executive actions and orders announced by Obama to counteract gun violence is even remotely unconstitutional. Read them yourself and you'll probably agree with constitutional scholar Peter M. Shane of Ohio State's law school:
"What executive orders cannot do is impose obligations or restrictions on the public, unless Congress, through legislation, has expressly or implicitly conferred authority on the president to do so. It is worth noting that none of President Obama's executive orders on gun violence do any such things…
"In short, none of these memorandums requires the public to do anything, expands the powers of the federal executive, or evokes even remotely the ghost of George III."
As for the legislative actions that Obama is proposing, such as the assault weapons ban, if those become law and hold up in court, then angry gun-rights advocates will have to impeach or unseat a good number of Republican congressmen, as well as the Supreme Court majority, right along with our president.