The Justice Department under new Attorney General Lynch plans to move forward this year with more than a dozen new gun-related regulations, according to a list of rules the agency has proposed to enact before the end of the Obama administration.
The regulations range from new restrictions on high-powered pistols to gun storage requirements. Chief among them is a renewed effort to deny gun ownership for people who seek mental health treatment or have been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse.
“It’s clear President Obama is beginning his final assault on our Second Amendment rights by forcing his anti-gun agenda on honest law-abiding citizens through executive force,” said Luke O’Dell, vice president of political affairs at the National Association for Gun Rights.
The Justice Department plans to issue new rules expanding criteria to disqualify people for gun ownership, according to the recently released Unified Agenda, which is a list of rules that federal agencies are developing. Many argue that by setting such “requirements” for gun ownership in the first place, the stage was set for this eventuality. By incrementally expanding the list of reasons to prohibit gun ownership, the long-term goal of disarmament can be achieved without the use of force.
Some of the rules come in response to President Obama’s call to reduce gun violence in the wake of Sandy Hook. He issued 23 executive actions shortly after the shooting aimed at expanding the definition of “dangerous people” who should be denied gun ownership and some of those items remain incomplete. Gun control groups have rallied around Obama’s call to action, zeroing in on policies to deny gun ownership for a broader classification of the mentally ill and domestic abusers. Whereas gun rights advocates argue that making it illegal for a certain class of people to own a gun does not indeed keep them from getting a gun. They argue that better treatment for the mentally ill and the ability of potential victims of domestic abuse to protect themselves is a more realistic approach.
The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) is looking to revive a rule proposed back in 1998 that would block even misdemeanor “domestic abusers” from owning guns. As proposed, the regulation would make it illegal for someone who has been convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense to own a gun.
“That could be a person who spanked his kid, or yelled at his wife, or slapped her husband,” warned Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for the Gun Owners of America.
The BATFE is also looking to prohibit a broader classification of the mentally ill from owning firearms, which is attracting even more criticism from gun rights groups, since an adjudicated mental illness is already cause for denial of a background check.
“The Obama administration is trying very hard to disqualify people from owning a gun on the basis that they are seeing a psychologist,” Hammond argued.
The NRA contends that many people who suffer from minor mental illnesses do not necessarily pose a danger to society — or as the gun lobby puts it, the policy “snares masses of mostly harmless individuals.”
“A person who experienced a temporary reaction to a traumatic event or who has trouble handling household finances may well be treated the same as a violent psychopath,” the NRA wrote. “Not only is this unjust and stigmatizing, it creates disincentives for those who need mental health treatment to seek it, increasing whatever risks are associated with untreated mental illness,” it added.
By expanding the definition of the “mentally ill,” gun rights advocates argue that the expansion could effectively disarm anyone who has sought help for a variety of issues, from postpartum depression after child birth to veterans seeking help with transitional issues while reintegrating after combat duty. Some argue that the expansion is meant to specifically target veterans in light of past administration declarations that veterans pose a high threat of becoming “domestic terrorists.”
Aside from these issues, some gun rights advocates have also raised concerns and are also deeply troubled by the fact that this is being done through regulatory agencies rather than through the people’s representatives in Congress.