Power Play: What an Executive Order Can and Can't Do

7:14 PM, Jan 14, 2013   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC-- Both the president and the National Rifle Association are claiming they have the upper hand over gun control legislation.

The NRA says an assault weapons ban won't make it through congress. But the president says he's willing to take executive action to get gun control changes.

Dr. Matther DeSantis, a political science professor at GTCC answered a few questions about the limits of executive orders.

Q: What can and can't be done by executive order? What are the rules/limitations?

DeSantis:  "The rules and limitations are really subjective.  The only real restriction that has ever been given was by the Supreme Court back in 1952 when they declared that executive orders could not make new law.  However, there is a LOT of wiggle room and a president can justify virtually any executive order under the justification of enforcing a current law or helping manage the enforcement of a current law.  Often times executive orders are pretty mundane and just set-up things like task forces or commissions, but every once in awhile they hit on very topical issues like gun control, immigration, national defense, etc."

 Q: What are some of the biggest executive orders from history?

DeSantis:  "The biggest executive order in history is easily Executive Order 9066, which was given by Franklin Roosevelt and led to the imprisonment of thousand of Japanese and German-American's during World War II.  Harry Truman also tried to use an executive order to nationalize the steel industry in the 1950's in order to avoid a labor strike, but the Supreme Court stepped in and said he went too far.  President Obama has made some pretty big executive orders too in regards to immigration that would halt the deportation of certain people here illegally."

Q: What could the president do about gun control through an executive order, since guns are part of the second amendment?

DeSantis:  "The President could still pass executive orders limiting possession of certain firearms under the justification that he is protecting the security of the country.  Once again, this is very vague and ambiguous, but there is very little case law to go on here.  Presidents have been able to wage wars through Executive Order, so it's not completely out of the question for the President to invoke an Executive Order here.  The second amendment does allow us to have firearms, but it doesn't say what type of firearms or how many we are allowed to have.  More importantly, it doesn't say much of anything about the sale of firearms, which is likely where the president would focus his executive order."

WFMY News 2

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