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EDITORIAL: Squeezing the gunsmiths

Obama wants to use the banks to void the Second Amendment

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When he was an ambitious state senator in Illinois, Barack Obama despised White House power grabs. It was so Washington. "The biggest problem that we're facing right now," he said in 2008, "has to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all, and that's what I intend to reverse when I'm president of the United States of America."

The only things Mr. Obama has reversed since he got to town are red lines of his own making. As president, Mr. Obama has raced far beyond Congress and the authority given to him by the Constitution. The latest example of overreach is carefully documented by our Kelly Riddell, who reported Monday that the administration is scheming to starve the gun industry of working capital and credit.

It works this way. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) imposes the "high risk" label on any business making firearms, regardless of the company's actual credit history. Coupled with the Justice Department's Operation Chokepoint, the FDIC encourages banks to drop gun stores, suppliers and manufacturers and to refuse to process their online transactions.

It's dressed up as fraud prevention, but many of the companies targeted have good credit histories and operate good and well-managed companies. Banks comply with Washington's demands out of an understandable fear of the consequences of saying "no." Conducting business with clients deemed "risky" would put them in jeopardy of audits and other harassment from federal agents.

Kelly McMillan, owner of the McMillan Group, a firearms manufacturer, says this bullying is an "attempt by the federal government to keep people from buying guns."

Mr. Obama failed to get his gun bans through Congress, so he's claiming more power and authority for the executive branch, the better to undermine the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. If he succeeds, he will destroy an industry responsible for 250,000 full-time jobs that pay good wages.

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry generates $37 billion in business each year — business that's booming. Gun sales were one of the economy's bright spots during the recent recession. You might think that a president who can't manage the unemployment crisis would think joblessness is bad enough without crippling a successful part of the economy.

House Republicans are furious. "It's pretty clear," says Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas Republican, "that unless Congress uses the power of the purse to stop him, Barack Obama will use his 'phone and his pen' to ban guns by cutting off money for gun manufacturers and dealers."

President Bush pushed the boundaries of executive power, but he respected the limits placed on him by the Constitution. President Obama cares more about winning than honoring the Constitution. Congress must step in now to show Mr. Obama how the "reverse" gear actually works.

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