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San Diegans Praise, Criticize President Obama's Gun Control Measures

President Barack Obama talks about victims of the Sandy Hook shootings, as he speaks in the East Room of the White House about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence, Jan. 5, 2016.
Associated Press
President Barack Obama talks about victims of the Sandy Hook shootings, as he speaks in the East Room of the White House about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence, Jan. 5, 2016.

San Diegans Praise, Criticize President Obama's Gun Control Measures
San Diegans Praise, Criticize President Obama's Gun Control Measures GUESTS: Glenn Smith, constitutional law professor, California Western School of Law Vicki Chin, member, San Diego Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence Michael Schwartz, executive director, San Diego County Gun Owners PAC

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I am . Once again setting [ Indiscernible ] in Congress, President Obama has an event. He tighten existing gun contracts, specific processing of the six, and increase funding for mental illness. Gun-control advocates praise the president's actions, knowing the limited scope of changes. The NRA phase the person's actions as rhetoric. And, Obama's use has authority continues to be in [ Indiscernible ] of provincial. During the first is Glenn Smith, law professor at California Western School of Law. Welcome to the program. Thank you, Marine. As -- How does this gun-control continue to immigration policy? It looks to me that this is a more modest assertion of presidential power compared to the immigration order. Both in terms of when you compare 4.3 million people of Americans that lived in the shadows, getting at least three years of respite it from the fear, test. When you compare that to marginal background checks and employment funds in research and all that, I think I would have to say the immigration plan is a bigger stretch. So, if the invoking the same kind of power to change the regulations on both of those? Yes. There is a common thread here. The president has the power under article 10 that he has to keep the law of the United States. Under these contacts and sever others, the president like others, explained to the test to be operating in the running Brenda existing law gives him. The question in all the cases is, if you are executing a congressional policy, or a 1950 to case involving Harry Truman saying that he's directing the gun policy in the manner that he is described, as he executing within the legislation? That is the issue involved. So the courts have already taken on this question of the distinction between the president changing the enforcement of policy, as opposed to creating new policy. Yes. The standard is pretty clear, but of course you and your listeners can imagine, the details. Left a look at the statutory language and how much Congress has allowed or concluded. Each of these is a case-by-case assessment. So, although the principle is pretty clear, the application of it is always controversial in any particular case. Especially when you combine it with issues like immigration and gun-control. No accident that you have these strong and extravagant claims. Now as part of the new gun-control that the president announced, he says he's allocating funds towards mental health treatments and or personnel to process background checks. Doesn't have to get congressional approval to spend money? Again that depends. He certainly cannot decide if new money should be spent. There is a certain power that all presidents have based on changes and priorities to reallocate money that authority been appropriated. I read -- from what I read from the White House press release on this, it looks like it they are walking a pretty careful line between existing funds that they are reprogramming versus new funds that they are asking Congress for. There are references to the president proposing in this year's budget. Again, it is sort of a variation of the big issue, which is the president using funds the Congress has already decided to allocate and redeployed them. Or, is he trying to ask for new money. New money has to come from the Congress and president working together. I think it has been pointed out in the past that previous presidents have actually used executive authority more often than President Obama. Is it because of the ways that he's been using it and the types of issues he's been addressing his executive authority that has created such a backlash? I think the backlash is largely political. I do think for example, immigration policy. President Obama is going further than past presidents have. Both Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush has very big programs legal status to for all. But they were on the same magnitude. To that extent, the magnitude exceeds past presidents. I don't think the gun-control change is especially dramatic on those grounds, but again, given the fact that we are in an election year, people like to make constitutional claims that advance their political agendas. That is really what's going on. The president has said that he is using his executive authority on these issues because Congress is installed and has failed to act. Is there any way Congress can lodge any formal protest over the president's use of executive action? Definitely. That is one of the reasons why it is historically that courts have stayed out of these battles. They recognize that Congress and the president both how political tools, budgetary authority, and Congress can block them, and then he met can express disapproval. There are a variety of mechanisms available. Of course, if the person ultimately be toes registration that tries to [ Indiscernible ] what he did or whatever, under our system, the president can stop legislative action to a certain point. But at a certain point, there are limits to what action, and as you may know, the immigration order is now in the courts. The circuit has worked against the president, and the Supreme Court may get involved in it. We may see more judicial involvement. I want to thank you very much. Glenn Smith constitutional law professor California Western School of Law. Joining me now is trying eight. She is a member of the Brady Campaign to prevent violence. Vicki, the program. Michael Schwartz also joined us. Is executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners pack. Michael, we're going to cover a lot of ground here, so we will take it step-by-step. Let me first ask you, what is your first overall take on the president's executive action regulating gun sales? What kind of impact will it have? Is actually tying into something Mr. Smith said. I believe that he has drastically understating what President Obama did by saying that it really isn't a big deal when it comes to gun ownership. It wasn't a big deal when it comes to guns at all. What he is doing is creating a new class of criminal. Has created a new class of people -- a group of people -- that is now considered a criminal. Someone that is now able to have criminal consequences. So you can actually prosecute people for doing something that they were able to do before that they are now not able to do. That is creating a law. That is not modest at all. So what did not go through Congress. It is just him and his decision, and his pen, and apparently his phone. I think that his huge prick he drastically understate the descriptive that used to be that a law-abiding citizen federally could buy or sell a gun from another law-abiding citizen. Without the requirement for background checks. This doesn't apply to California, but it does -- [ Indiscernible ] background checks. Limited of Vicki to ask the same question. Your overall take on the executive's actions regulating themselves and the impact that it's going to have. I just saw a lot of frustration on his part, like a lot of us feel about the gun violence in this country. I think he is doing what he can since Congress is not doing anything about it to try to bring some sense to the gun violence situation in this country. I think he's calling attention to it. Just so we all know, I really went by in the beginning. Vicki, can you tell us about these 10 measures that the president unveiled yesterday? The major parts of this executive action. My understanding is the major portion was saying that if you are in the business of selling firearms, that you need to get a license, and you need to conduct background checks on all gun purchases. Then, there were other segments, increased law enforcement of current gun laws, increased efficiency of the background check system, increased outreach to domestic violence situations, expanding healthcare treatment, and reporting, exploring smart and technologies, and violence research. There's a lot of areas where there are problems. A whole 10 point plan. Michael, let me go back to you. If I understand what you were saying, the whole idea of requiring people outside of California to background checks, even if they are private seller -- to [ Indiscernible ] to people since they are selling, is making that gun seller a criminal. Is that the point? After this order, as a private citizen -- a law-abiding private citizen cell to another law-abiding private citizen, and they don't conduct some sort of background checks, then that person would face criminal consequences as a result of Obama's order. A lot of this is -- there's a lot of misinformation about there. A lot of this is what you call the gun show loophole. It is a lot of misinformation there. The idea of calling to the gun show loophole, and some of the this understanding is, that it is never legal -- in all 50 states -- it is never legal to sell a gun to somebody who is not legally allowed to own that gun. It is never legal. You can subdue it at a gun show, a gunshot, and a living room, and there is nothing that you can't do at a gun shop that you can do at a gun show. Unfortunately, this is more of a PR move to advance a political agenda, rather than something that is truly going to be affected. I have a question, Michael. You keep saying that if a law-abiding citizen wants to sell them to another law-abiding citizen, how do you know that the purchaser is a law abiding citizen unless you do a background check? Thousands of times -- hundreds of thousands of times a year -- it is called the party transfer, a person-to-person transfer of a firearm. If they don't know they're background, and they never met the person, then they do go and do a background check. They go to a PlayStation. To go to the gun shop, and they make sure that they are not selling to someone who is, for example, convicted of a felony. If they do that, then they become a felon. That is a legal. It has been illegal. It has ever been okay. It is never been illegal. That is what this new permit or require them to do. What you say they are doing anyway. To say they are doing it voluntarily. I am saying that in order to comply with the law, it is something -- to make sure that you are complying with the law, that is something that a law responsible individual should be doing. The White House actually said that the background check system has already stopped to million people from buying a firearm. What concerns me is that it doesn't say that it resulted in to million prosecutions. If criminal is not allowed to own a firearm and customer gun shop and feels the background check, that is a felony. They should be arrested. -- I looked up some of the FBI numbers, and back in to thousand 10, 80,000 Helen's trying to buy a gun that were submitted by check system, it's good. We support that. We don't want felons or criminal to have guns. Resulted in 44 prosecutions. There were 80,000 people, 40,000, that is not effective. Let me ask Vicki a question. California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country -- including universal gun laws. Will it have any impact here? Specifically, have a lot of these things in place, especially with the background checks. But I think what we are all interested in is national universal background checks, so that the entire country, gun purchases are under the same standards as California. I think that 90% of the American public agrees that this would be a smart thing to do. So PR -- those of us in California are thinking very much of the rest of the country as well as California. Michael, I am almost out of time. I would ask you really, really about the mental health programs that the part of this. I know that you've specifically have talked about this. The NRA has talked about the way of preventing mass shootings and gun suicides is to put more attention on mental illness. Do you support that part of the program? Yes? The neck system would not even exist without the NRA. I need a yes or no. Without the change, the mentally unstable are still going to pass this background check. So you are expanding a broken system. Okay. It doesn't make any sense and is unaffected. I am sorry for your out of time. I've been speaking with Michael Schwartz, executive director of the San Diego gunowners packed, and turn eight, thank you very much.

Citing stalled efforts in Congress, President Barack Obama introduced a package of measures Tuesday to tackle gun violence.

The president's 10-point plan would tighten existing regulations on background checks for gun purchases, speed up the processing of those checks and increase funding for the treatment of mental illness.

Gun control advocates praised the president's action but noted the limited scope of the changes. The National Rifle Association criticized the president's actions as political rhetoric.

RELATED: San Diego County Politicians React To Obama's Gun Control Actions

Meanwhile, Obama's use of executive authority continues to be a controversial aspect of his presidency.

"Is he legislating here, or is he executing within the existing legislation?" Glenn Smith, a professor of constitution law at California Western School of Law, said Wednesday on KPBS Midday Edition.

Smith said Article II of the U.S. Constitution allows the president to use his power to execute the laws set by Congress. He also has power to shift funds but cannot order new spending. Obama's plan to improve mental health treatment would reappropriate existing funds.

"This is a more modest assertion of presidential power compared to the immigration order," Smith said.

In 2014, the president ordered deportation relief for tens of thousands of people in the United States illegally and whose children had legal status.

Michael Schwartz, executive director of the San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, challenged Smith's analysis.

"(The president) has created a new class of criminals," Schwartz said, referring to the Obama's plan to require hobbyists to conduct background checks before selling their guns in informal settings. "You're able to prosecute somebody for doing something that they we're previously able to do. That's creating law."

Schwartz said many hobbyists already voluntarily run background checks.

The executive action would expand nationwide many of the regulations California already has in place. Vicki Chin with the San Diego Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said while the order wouldn't have much of an impact locally, it's an important step for the country.

"What we're all interested in is national background checks that put the rest of Americans under the same gun safety standards as California," Chin said.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.