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Procedural hurdles

Though the administration has followed through on crafting a plan just one month after Newtown, some of Mr. Obama’s executive actions face procedural hurdles.

For example, he is nominating B. Todd Jones, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to be the bureau’s permanent director — a position Mr. Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush, couldn’t fill. A reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act in 2006 changed the position from a presidential appointment to one confirmed by the Senate, and concerns with nominees’ views on guns have helped derail their prospects ever since.

In April 2011, the ATF announced plans to direct Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to report any multiple purchases of certain types of long guns. The move prompted almost immediate litigation from the National Rifle Association and the National Sports Shooting Foundation, along with attempts from Congress to defund the reporting program in the midst of the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.

“And they probably don’t want to push anything more at the moment, because that means they’ll have to fight off congressional efforts to unfund it,” Mr. Gardiner said. “So the administration would have to fight that off, and they probably didn’t want to pick any more fights than they absolutely have to.”

Another of Mr. Obama’s directives orders the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence. Congress earlier passed legislation that forbids federal funding for research that “advocates or promotes gun control.”

White House attorneys signed off on the proposal, but Mr. Gardiner said issues could be raised with language, depending on what the studies entail.

“‘Causes,’ maybe, ‘prevention,’ a little shakier,” he said. “They probably can’t deal with so-called ‘prevention.’”

But with litigation ensnaring Mr. Obama’s health care overhaul, his signature domestic achievement, and the coming U.S. Supreme Court battle over same-sex marriage, the White House is unlikely to be interested in picking more legal fights over any hot-button issues in the near future. FreedomWatch, a conservative group founded by lawyer Larry Klayman, has filed suit in federal court in Florida this week over Mr. Biden’s task force, alleging that the group did not give sufficient notice for its meetings.

Neither the White House nor the Department of Justice responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit Thursday.