Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) clarified his stance against President Barack Obama's gun control proposals at a press conference in Charleston today.
"We think that a few of his executive orders may be interpreted as being legislation," said Paul, the son of libertarian hero and former presidential candidate Ron Paul. "The president's not allowed to write legislation. Congress has to pass legislation, and he can sign or not sign it." Paul said presidents since Woodrow Wilson had gone beyond their executive powers, including Republican George W. Bush.
When asked for specific examples where Obama, whose inauguration ceremony took place today, was overstepping his bounds, Paul pointed to some wording about health care providers and patient confidentiality. Part of the president's plan (download the PDF of the full plan here) reads as follows:
Doctors and other health care providers also need to be able to ask about firearms in their patients’ homes and safe storage of those firearms, especially if their patients show signs of certain mental illnesses or if they have a young child or mentally ill family member at home. Some have incorrectly claimed that language in the Affordable Care Act prohibits doctors from asking their patients about guns and gun safety. Medical groups also continue to fight against state laws attempting to ban doctors from asking these questions. The Administration will issue guidance clarifying that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit or otherwise regulate communication between doctors and patients, including about firearms.
"What they said in their description of the executive order is families that have someone mentally ill or children — well, half of the country have children at home," Paul said, holding a press conference in a boardroom at Charleston Place Hotel. "So what are we going to do? Are we going to ask eight-year-old kids, 'Does Daddy have a gun at home? Does Daddy drink beer? Did Daddy ever yell at Mommy, and he has guns in the house?' I mean, you can see how you could open Pandora's box, not to mention that interviewing of children is notoriously inaccurate."
Paul promised on his Facebook page last week to "nullify anything the president does that smacks of legislation," but Paul has not released his bill yet. He says he plans to do so tomorrow.
But the president hasn't formally made his executive orders yet either, and he has yet to "issue guidance" to health care providers as mentioned in his plan last week.
"What he released the other day was an outline of what he's going to do," Paul said, "so to actually know whether something legally goes against the law or tries to change the law, we have to actually see exactly the way he words it."
Paul is in town to speak at tonight's Monday Meeting, an invitation-only conference for Republican bigwigs hosted by Charleston businessman and political activist Mallory Factor. He said he would talk about the national debt tonight, jokingly adding that he would also "probably make comments about Te'o's girlfriend."
Politico took note of Paul's appearance in Charleston today, framing it as a possible nod toward a 2016 presidential run. "The timing and symbolism of his South Carolina visit is unmistakable," Politico reporters wrote.
When asked if he was considering a 2016 run, Paul said, "I think it's a little early, but it's not too early to be involved in the national debate. I think the Republican Party, we didn't fare too well in the presidential election. We didn't fare too well four years ago in the presidential election. I think as the Republican Party we need to look to new leadership, people with a different approach to things, and I think people who have a little bit of a libertarian Republican bent may attract people who haven't been attracted."