News broke on the morning of August 29 that President Barack Obama has proposed new gun control measures that would effectively ban the reimportation of military surplus weapons, or “milsurp” weapons, into the United States by private entities. Gun collectors and military memorabilia enthusiasts often scour the Internet for the opportunity to purchase and reimport these milsurp weapons that were sold by the United States to allied countries for military use. Due to their historical value, these weapons often hold great monetary value as well if they are in great condition.
The Obama administration argues that this “milsurp loophole” is another way for violent criminals and felons to get their hands on a weapon without being subjected to a background check. The executive order would allow the reimportation of these weapons only by certified museums and the federal government, as well as preventing firearms owners from registering their weapons to a corporation or trust for legal transfer. The later covers all firearms, not just milsurp weapons, according to the Associated Press report.
The announcement came in a speech by Vice President Joe Biden during the ceremonial swearing-in for Todd Jones, the new head of the ATF. In his speech, Biden said that “the steps are straightforward, simple, and common-sense” solutions, and that Obama will “act on his own where he can” to stifle gun violence, according to the AP.
Unlike Obama’s previous gun control measures that had very little backing in Congress, these measures will likely never get to face their level of scrutiny, as he plans to implement these measures via executive order, which allows him to bypass Congress completely. Such a move is not uncommon for this president.
Factually, the president’s plans fail the litmus test. Purchasing milsurp weapons from legal private dealers online still requires that the firearms be sent to a local federally licensed dealer in order to complete the sale, as with any weapon. This means that any purchaser must still submit to a background check.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 already regulates the kinds of milsurp weapons that can be reimported into the United States, barring those weapons that have short barrels and “Saturday night specials” that have low caliber and can be easily hidden on a person.
In addition, the ban of firearm trusts as a method of gun control is a folly that has little basis in reality. Registering a weapon to a trust does not relinquish the requirement that a felon cannot access or use it. These trusts are used in order to legally and more easily transfer firearms to another individual or individuals for ownership and use, like any other asset.
As with many gun control measures on the books federally and locally across the country, these proposals will do far more harm than good. More red tape will further complicate the legal sale and transfer of firearms to legal owners, while criminals will continue acquire their weapons through already illegal means. Many of the laws already on the books can and do prevent gun crime, but only if they are implemented to their fullest extent. The president, already in deep water with numerous scandals and an impending unconstitutional war in Syria, should take a step back and reevaluate his position, if not for the good of the country, then for the good of his political clout.
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