Executive Action Versus Legislative Action — Does Everyone Understand the Distinction?

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 5.59.31 PMAs many know, President Obama has just issued sweeping Gun Control measures, based entirely on “Executive Action.”  To what extent do people understand what that means?  Does everyone understand that means changing fundamental policy and laws without going through a legislative process?

We’re going to be talking a lot more about these new Executive Actions, and what they mean But whether it is President Obama bypassing Congress to make fundamental policy changes, or a local town mayor, doing the same thing, by bypassing the town council to implement what is supposed to be legislative policy, it’s the same principle.  And it’s wrong.  According to our Constitution, we live in a Constitutionally-limited Democratic Republic, with three separate and distinct branches of government, and clearly intended checks and balances.  When the executive violates the separation of powers, there are no checks and balances.

In the case of President Obama, and his new Executive Orders regarding Gun Control, University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell (and former Federal Court Judge) said at least a couple of Obama’s executive orders on guns appear “extremely problematic” and that he expects lawsuits over them.

“I think the idea that the president can change the law on gun shows by himself is going to be very problematic,” he said. “I think the courts are going to have the final word on whether the president can take all the steps he’s trying to take.”

There are already laws on the books about gun shows and changing them would have to go through Congress, Cassell said.

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 6.07.32 PM

“This is quite a bold step in some areas. I think the president is entering into uncharted terrain here, and I think it raises very significant separation of powers questions about whether the president can bypass our nation’s elected representatives,” said Cassell.

In what ways do our local leaders often shrug, and do the same thing as President Obama?  This is a fundamental principle that applies in other areas as well — if the shoe fits, where it.