In this June 26, 2008 file photo John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Susan Walsh, File/AP Photo

John Yoo wants to talk about federal ‘overreactions’

UC Berkeley’s John Yoo, a rather important figure from the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, wrote an item for the Federalist Society yesterday on President Obama’s new measures on gun policy. Not surprisingly, the controversial lawyer wasn’t impressed.
But it’s the way in which Yoo criticized the administration’s policy that was almost amusing, in a lacking-self-awareness kind of way (via Sam Stein).
Supporters of Second Amendment rights should have little difficulty challenging President Obama’s new executive orders to restrict gun sales. There should be no problems for plaintiffs to enter federal court. […]
Such a case would prompt not just a good challenge to the scope of the President’s authority to interpret the law, on which the Supreme Court has been signaling that it may shift away from deference to the executive branch, but also the scope of the Second Amendment and the federal government’s regulatory powers…. In his regulatory overreaction to recent shootings, Obama may begin the erosion of the powers of his treasured welfare state.
Right off the bat, it’s curious that Yoo would take aim at the president’s “executive orders,” since the new White House reforms don’t include any executive orders. Given Yoo’s role as a legal scholar, it’s a little surprising he’d get such a basic detail wrong.
It’s also odd that Yoo would be so eager to see a legal challenge to a policy that, according to the NRA, doesn’t really do much of anything. On Monday, the group’s lawyers were ready to pounce on the administration, but notice there’s been little chatter about a court case since.
But even if we put these details aside, it’s the broader context that’s worth appreciating: does John Yoo, of all people, really want to have a conversation about federal “overreaction” to violence?
As longtime readers may recall, Yoo is perhaps best known as the principal author of the Bush/Cheney “torture memos” – defending the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – during Yoo’s tenure at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
The idea that President Obama’s modest, incremental administrative tweaks to existing law represent an “overreaction” is itself hard to take seriously, but perhaps the right can find someone other than Yoo to make the argument?