Obama can once again lay credible claim to the title of “Best Gun Salesman Ever.”

His recently announced policy changes on guns not only do nothing to discourage gun purchases, they if anything facilitate even greater volumes of gun sales, and in particular machine guns, suppressors, short-barreled rifles/shotguns, and other highly controlled “NFA” items.  The ATF guidance purported to close the “gun show loophole” (spoiler: it doesn’t, because there isn’t such a thing) and the ATF policy “change” on NFA items are both embedded at the bottom of this post. Warning: Like Obama himself, both documents are extremely wordy and with little real-world effect.

Obama is “Best Gun Salesman Ever”

This is entirely consistent with Obama’s actual effect on gun sales over both of his terms, during which sales have skyrocketed compared to prior administrations. The past 7 years of the Obama administration constitute only 40% of the time the modern NICS system has been in place, but nearly 60% of all NICS checks run.

Yesterday the ATF reported that it had conducted more than 23 million NICS background checks in 2015. That means in 2015 there were on average 44 NICS checks run every minute of the year. EVERY. MINUTE.

Here’s a helpful chart, courtesy of the always excellent WeaponsMan.com blog, to illustrate the point graphically:


(Note: I added the blue highlight.)

The trend of NICS checks contrasts nicely with the Bureau of Labor statistics trend on Labor Participation during Obama’s reign:

BLS Labor Participation

In December 2015 alone, with Obama making great sound and fury about his planned “executive orders” on guns, more than 3.3 million NICS checks were run. 3.3 MILLION.

To put that in context, the US has about 1.4 million active service military personnel. Conservatively assuming that each NICS check corresponds to a single firearm (but see below), that means sales of firearms to private American citizens in the month of December alone could have fully re-equipped every person actively serving in the US military with a firearm. TWICE. And still leave 500,000 additional guns unallocated.

If anything, in fact, the number of NICS checks grossly underestimates the number of guns being purchase. In many states, a valid concealed carry permit is accepted in lieu of a NICS check for gun purchasing purposes, the permit itself having required a background check. In addition, a single NICS check is valid for the purchase of multiple firearms, not just one. Finally, no NICS check is required (in most states) for a private sale between two individuals not “engaged in business,” and Obama’s new policy does nothing to change this.

Obama’s “Policy Changes” Change Almost Nothing

So, with Obama’s amazing gun-selling chops as background, what policy changes were actually implemented by Obama’s “Executive Order” yesterday?  Absolutely none.

First, it must be noted that what was issued yesterday was not, in fact, an “executive order” by the President, but merely an “executive guidance” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE). The portion of the policy change related to the “gun show loophole” states explicitly on its second page: “The guidance set forth herein has no regulatory effect … ”  Further, at least part of that guidance (the portion addressing changes to rules for NFA items, such as machine guns) will not even take effect until 180 days after publication in the Federal Register, and it’s not clear that step has even been taken as yet.

Second, much of the proposed “policy changes” are simply re-statements of the law as it currently existed.  The “closing” of the “gun show loophole” is particularly laughable.  Prior to yesterday, gun dealers were subject to NICS requirements, and this was true whether they sold the gun out of their shop, at a gun show, or out of the trunk of their car in a parking lot.  Private sellers who are not gun dealers were not subject to NICS requirements.

After Obama’s policy “change”? Exactly the same rules apply. Zero change.

Third, Obama proposed changes actually will make easier the sale of such NFA-controlled items such as machine guns, suppressors, and short-barreled rifles/shotguns than they have been in the past.  Prior to yesterday, such sales required sign-off by a local law enforcement officer.  In many states where such items are legal, law enforcement in “blue” areas would routinely refuse to sign off on NFA items, making them effectively prohibited to those residents.

After Obama’s policy change? Buyers of NFA items now merely need to notify local law enforcement of the transfer, not obtain their approval.

[Clarification (1/6/16; AFB): Please see comments below.]

Fourth, Obama’s proposed changes promise to make the NICS check system more efficient.  In recent times it has become not uncommon for the NICS check to backlog badly during periods of high-volume buying.

After Obama’s policy change? Obama says he’s going to increase NICS staffing at the FBI by 50%, from 150 to 230.  Making NICS better staffed and more efficient, then, will serve to facilitate even more gun purchases.  “Best gun salesman ever,” indeed.

Fifth, Obama’s proposed changes include “budgeting” (but, notably, not actual “money”) for several gun-control favored initiatives already proven to be costly failures.  One of these is for a National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN).  Just such a system was tried by Maryland for 15 years, costing state taxpayers over $5 million, and was never decisive in solving even a single crime. Maryland finally abandoned the system last year.  So, yeah, let’s implement that demonstrable failure on a national level.

Sixth, Obama proposes some $500 million for mental illness efforts.  Ironically, this is an initiative that has been called for as much by Republicans who disfavor increased restrictions on lawful gun ownership as by those who favor gun control.  No rational person wants the genuinely insane to be in possession of firearms.  Oh, and it was already unlawful for them to be in such possession even before Obama’s policy change.

There are a few other tidbits thrown into the mess that was Obama’s “policy changes” on gun laws yesterday, but each is weaker sauce than the last. A thorough once-over of all the pieces can be found at Bob Owen’s excellent BearingArms.com site.

Professor Jacobson wondered why Obama would make such a big fuss over something that amounts to so little, especially given that it seems likely to do political harm to the Democrats.  I like one of the explanations offered by Jonathan Adler over at The Volokh Conspiracy blog:

A third potential reason for issuing a guidance of this sort is political: to respond to the political demand for action. Issuing a guidance document with substantial fanfare is a way to create the impression of action and satisfy relevant constituencies. To the typical, rationally ignorant voter, it may appear that the administration is doing something significant. (And insofar as Republicans complain and caterwaul about the administration’s actions, this purpose is more fully achieved.)

I would also add my personal observation that Obama has never given any indication that he cares a whit about how his conduct impacts Democrat political fortunes or anything else that isn’t “Obama.”  Narcissism is like that.  As long as the New York Times is writing pleasing homages to President Obama, all is good with the world.

As has been noted well by others, the Obama presidency has been nothing short of a disaster for the Democrat party, which has been gutted over the last 7 years. There’s a reason the Democrat nominees for President are 68-year-old Hillary Clinton, 74-year-old Bernie Sanders, and some young whipper-snapper from Maryland who can’t get double digit numbers of people to show up at his events: under Obama the Democratic “bench” has been eviscerated.  I don’t expect Obama to start caring about that any time soon.

“If I want to sell guns to Mexico . . . “

Finally, this bit of funny from the official Facebook page of the ATF, which solicited questions about the “gun dealer policy changes” announced yesterday and received this witty inquiry:

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 1.50.03 PM

Anyway, here’s yesterday’s ATF guidance that purports to close the “gun show loophole”:

And here’s yesterday’s rule on NFA items:

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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