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Dean Mark Alexander

Dean Mark Alexander on stemming gun violence in our nation

President Obama's executive orders are "a perfect example of checks and balances, the underpinning of our republic. Congress may now act if it so chooses. If they act, then presumptions of the president’s authority may shift."


Dean Mark Alexander, who teaches Constitutional Law, published an op-ed in the Star-Ledger applauding President Obama’s executive orders to help stem increasing gun violence in our nation, and explaining how the President acted within the authority of his position.

The primary impetus for President Obama’s orders, according to Dean Alexander, was Congress’s own failure to proffer solutions of any kind:

… despite the fact that 30,000 American die every year due to gun violence, extremists [in Congress] refuse...to pass measures most people agree on. And since nothing was done, the President stepped into the void and took action.

Dean Alexander summarized the President’s orders:

  1. increased, and more thorough, background checks;
  2. greater vigilance on the part of the Attorney General’s office to track violent offenders, gun traffickers, and others who try to skirt background checks to obtain guns illegally;
  3. budget allocations to hire additional Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and investigators to increase enforcement;
  4. increased research and development of technology to prevent accidental discharges and the use of guns that are stolen.

Then, exhorting the opposition to “calm down,” Dean Alexander explained the Constitutional foundation of President Obama's decisions:

The president may mobilize federal agencies and officers in pursuit of the national interest...The seminal case in Constitutional Law on this subject backs up the president’s power to act on similar national matters if and when the Congress has failed to act. That’s both his prerogative and duty as president.

This is a perfect example of checks and balances, the underpinning of our republic. Congress may now act if it so chooses. If they act, then presumptions of the president’s authority may shift. Ultimately, the courts are open to those who read the Constitution differently...

The President’s plan respects individual rights. The Second Amendment is not under siege. I am a Constitutional Law professor; I love the Constitution and will always defend it. But no constitutional right is absolute, and the right to bear arms is no exception. There is room for modest regulation.

As Dean Alexander concludes,

Our Constitution was written in order to establish a more perfect union. A nation determined to reduce gun deaths is moving more closely toward that goal. The President’s action has brought us one small, but important, step forward.

Read Dean Alexander's Star-Ledger op-ed, "Calm down. Obama is right to use executive powers for gun violence epidemic"