Monday, April 15, 2013

Executive Orders

Photo: White House.Gov


There has been much talk of implementing gun control via executive orders, the legal question that remains unanswered is, is it possible?  The answer should be a conditional no.

A Long and Storied History

Executive orders have been around as long as the presidency, George Washington issued 8, Adams 1, Jefferson 4, Madison 1, Lincoln 48.  They were somewhat rare up until the administration of Teddy Roosevelt who issued 1,081, Woodrow Wilson 1,803, and Franklin Roosevelt who issued a whopping 3,522.  Since then they have declined somewhat in popularity, averaging about 150 per term since the Kennedy administration.

Executive Orders

Executive orders are really addressed to the administration of government, not towards the citizenry in general.  The constitution vests all legislative power in the Houses of Congress “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States” and vests the presidency with the power to administer legislation “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.” And “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. 

Limitations on Power

One of the key cases limiting executive authority was what is known as the Steel Seizure Case: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer.  The Majority Opinion written by Justice Hugo Black was “the President had no power to act except in those cases expressly or implicitly authorized by the Constitution or an act of Congress”.  This decision was reaffirmed as recently as 2008 in Medellin v. Texas, “The President's authority to act, as with the exercise of any governmental power, 'must stem either from an act of Congress or from the Constitution itself”.

So far, from its actions, the Obama administration seems to recognize the limitations its powers to implement ‘law’ via executive order.  The administration earlier this year issued 23 executive orders in regards to gun control, none of them made new law.  

It does not appear that any of the executive orders would have any impact on the guns people currently own-or would like to purchase- and that all proposals regarding limiting the availability of assault weapons or large ammunition magazines will be proposed for Congressional action. As such, any potential effort to create a constitutional crisis—or the leveling of charges that the White House has overstepped its executive authority—would hold no validity. ~Rick Unger: Forbes~

Let's Keep It That Way

Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realization the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition. ~Lord Acton~

Administration covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.           ~Alexis de Tocqueville~


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