Know the difference between executive action, executive order

Riley Youngman

Friday’s shooting in Corvallis outside of the Shari’s Diner, which left one man dead, is a stark reminder that these acts of violence can also exist on a local level, and not just on your TV and computer screens. While gun violence in Corvallis is not common, we were shown that even we are not immune.

Cue the gun control debate.

President Obama announced earlier this month a list of executive actions for gun regulation, for which he has been heavily criticized. Despite claims his actions are unlawful and extend beyond his power, Attorney General Loretta Lynch reported he was “well within existing legal authority” Tuesday, according to an article on CNN.

Reading through various articles and a variety of comment chains, one fact becomes clear; barely anyone realizes there is a difference between the terms “executive action” and “executive order.”

Although the two are often interchanged in conversation, the two terms do not have the same definition.

Simply defined by Robert Longley at, an executive order is “a directive issued to federal agencies, department heads, or other federal employees by the President of the United States under his statutory or constitutional powers.”

When a President of the United States signs an executive order, the order only applies to those in the executive branch. These orders, unless put into law by Congress, do not apply to anyone outside of the federal government. This means you are most likely not directly affected by the issuance of an order from the president. Executive Orders are legally binding and are published in the Federal Register.

On the other hand, as defined by writer Tom Murse on About News politics, an executive action does not carry any legal weight. These actions are more policy that the president would like to see enacted, but his issuing of the actions do not necessarily mean they will.

For example, President Obama’s executive actions rolled out earlier this month are aimed at clarifying existing laws, stressing the importance of stricter, stronger background checks and ensuring guns stayed out of the wrong hands.

Obama has not created new law or signed any legislation. Instead he has spoke of increasing funding for mental health treatment, FBI staff and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and even stated in his speech announcing these actions,

“Congress still needs to act. The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures, we can reduce gun violence and save more lives.”

He knows he can’t make these actions law by himself. He’s merely pushing for Congress to follow in his steps and act within their power.

Obama isn’t the first commander-in-chief to enact executive orders. As of Jan. 20, Obama had issued a total of 228 orders while in the Oval Office. George W. Bush signed 291 in his two terms and Reagan finished with 381.

And these were all Executive Orders, not Actions.

Before you get on the Internet and start to complain about Obama’s corrupt policies and his negligent abuse of power, please research. Ignorance is not an excuse to make a fool of yourself, and just because you dislike the president doesn’t mean you should call him out for acting within his legal rights.

The opinions expressed in Youngman’s column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Barometer Staff.

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