Gun Control and the ACA

imageThis is the second occasion I have had in the past four months to correct a news piece that has appeared on the Breitbart web site regarding the Affordable Care Act.  Last November, I shared my disagreement with Dr. Susan Berry’s fallacious interpretation of a Journal of American Medical Association article on knee replacements under the Affordable Care Act.

Interestingly, that post – Death Panels Just Won’t Die – remains the most popular PolicyPub article landed upon.  Visitors come to it by using search engines and wanting to learn more about “Obamacare and knee replacements.” But today I am writing about Awr Hawkins’ piece from January 9, Obamacare Amendment Forbids Gun and Ammo Registration.

A good friend brought this to my attention via  forwarded e-mail. As with many topics of this type, the news gets passed around in emails, blogs and web sites and then reproduced, repurposed and morphed into all varieties of content (just as I am doing here).  As I did in my post on death panels referenced above, however, I will try again to be diligent here in providing to readers original source content, so that you can do your own research – and thinking.  I wish Mr. Hawkins had gone to such effort.  Here is what he wrote:

“Good news — it has become known that hidden deep within the massive 2800-page bill called Obamacare there is a Senate Amendment protecting the right to keep and bear arms.

It seems that in their haste to cram socialized medicine down the throats of the American people, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Barack Obama overlooked Senate amendment 3276, Sec. 2716, part c.

According to reports, that amendment says the government cannot use doctors to collect ‘any information relating to the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition.’

CNN is calling it ‘a gift to the nation’s powerful gun lobby.’

And according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), that’s exactly right. He says he added the provision in order to keep the NRA from getting involved in the legislative fight over Obamacare, which was so ubiquitous in 2010.”

In his piece, Hawkins references an article produced by, which, in turn, references a video report produced by CNN on the subject that Hawkins’ references in his article (following, so far?).  What the original reporting claims is that Title X, Sec. 2716, Subsection C was a, “little known” piece of the Affordable Care Act that was unwittingly passed in support of the gun ownership lobby by lawmakers whom many would assume are gun control advocates.  In particular, Harry Reid.

As the CNN piece points out, however, up until very recently, Harry Reid has been a rather reliable gun rights advocate.  More importantly, as Ed Morrissey writes on the HotAir site, “this isn’t that much of a bar on Congressional action. What can be done in this manner can be undone in the same manner.”

Even beyond Mr. Morrissey’s interpretation, however, what the above referenced section does is make it explicit the ACA does not empower the Federal government (primarily under the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services) with the right to collect, analyze and/or report data and information on gun ownership.  And it was rather widely understood at the time (sorry conspiracy theorists) that in order to achieve some measure of political support of the ACA by the Gun Lobby, this section was intended to provide assurance the ACA was not granting new Federal powers.

That is not the same thing as saying such powers have been henceforth forbidden or cannot be achieved through other means (i.e., through future legislation).  In other words, if Congress were to advance gun control legislation currently under consideration that requires stricter registration, tracking and reporting of gun ownership, there is nothing in the ACA that would conflict with that legislation.

President Obama recently issued 23 executive actions on gun control.  One of these is to, “clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes." This has also been unfortunately interpreted by some media sources as a new Federal requirement that doctors are being required to act as deputies in ferreting out individuals at risk of committing gun violence.

In any event, while speaking on gun control during last week’s State of the Union, the President noted that, “each of these [gun control] proposals deserves a vote in Congress.  If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. Because in the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations and anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun."

What I believe this to mean is the President does not have the votes in Congress to pass any meaningful gun control legislation at this time.  But he is seeking to gain some measure of political capital by getting those opposed on record.

This is a very difficult ball of public policy yarn: wrapped in together you have healthcare delivery policy, mental health policy and gun ownership/gun control policy.  It requires serious efforts in research, understanding and debate.  It requires, wherever possible, a clear articulation of the known facts.  Although my readership is paltry compared to what Breitbart controls, I hope my efforts here will combat this latest demonstration of reporting laziness, manifested in unhelpful misinformation.


Blog post picture courtesy of


  1. Sparky’s Policy Pub provides us with this:
    “This is the second occasion I have had in the past four months to correct a news piece that has appeared on theBreitbart web site regarding theAffordable Care Act.”

    What big revelation are you providing us with?

    To make things easy: It was felt (right or wrong) that some excessive physician intrusion into the lives of people that own guns and documentation of such in medical charts was an attempt to infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. The ACA provision mentioned inhibited that type of action. I think Breitbart made that point concisely and clearly.

    If this is your biggest complaint against Breitbart then Breitbart must be doing a pretty good job.


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