A conservative lawyer and activist has filed the first federal court challenge to President Barack Obama’s executive actions to restrict firearm ownership, arguing that the president’s moves violate the Constitution.
Larry Klayman, a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer who heads the conservative advocacy group Freedom Watch, filed the lawsuit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
In the suit, Klayman contends that Obama overstepped his executive authority by attempting to rewrite laws enacted by Congress without going through the lawmakers.
Earlier this month, Obama announced several executive actions to restrict gun ownership further, including an expansion to the federal government’s definition of who is considered “engaged in the business” of selling guns.
The shift requires a broad number of gun dealers who currently aren’t encompassed by federal law or regulation to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks on customers purchasing firearms.
Klayman, who founded and is chairman of Freedom Watch, said in the complaint that the president doesn’t have the legal authority to redefine congressional statutes and that his action “burdens” and compromises Americans’ Second Amendment rights. He wrote:
These actions are unconstitutional abuses of the president’s and executive branch’s role in our nation’s constitutional architecture and exceed the powers of the president as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.
Klayman also argues that the Obama administration is “fundamentally transforming” the federal definition of who is considered a gun dealer as set forth by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Because that agency already has determined how it interprets who is “in the business” of selling firearms, Klayman said, it is “capricious” for the administration to implement a new definition “for no other reason than the political preferences” of federal officials who were elected temporarily.
Before announcing the executive actions, Obama said he was “confident” they were “well within” his legal authority and “entirely consistent” with the Second Amendment.
The administration aimed the changes at unregistered dealers, who Obama argues are able to sidestep background checks by selling at gun shows, online, and other venues not covered by law.
Obama also ordered the FBI to overhaul its background check system and conduct checks 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To adjust to the changes, the FBI is to hire more than 230 new employees to process applications.
The president also requested $500 million to increase access to mental health care.
Obama said the measures would help “keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
Klayman counters that the executive actions infringe on his rights and put him at legal risk if the new rules are upheld.
He asked the court to declare Obama’s actions unlawful and unconstitutional.
“I want my constitutional rights respected and look to the courts to do the right thing,” Klayman wrote for WorldNetDaily. “Obama, as was true with his illegal immigration executive orders, cannot be allowed to act like a king.”
Klayman previously has filed other lawsuits against Obama administration actions, including those relaxing immigration law.