There’s a number of conservatives losing it, once again, over President Obama announcing various Executive Actions regarding gun control. First of all, these are invariably presented by conservative commentators as ‘Executive Orders’ (they are not), and an effort by Obama to “rewrite the laws” (he is not, and he can’t).

Here’s a short primer on these:

Executive Actions:
Executive actions are any informal proposals or moves by the president. The term executive action itself is vague and can be used to describe almost anything the president calls on Congress or his administration to do. But most executive actions carry no legal weight. Those that do actually set policy can be invalidated by the courts or undone by legislation passed by Congress.

The terms executive action and executive order are not interchangeable. Executive orders are legally binding and published in the Federal Register, though they also can be reversed by the courts and Congress. A good way to think of executive actions is a wish list of policies the president would like to see enacted.

Executive Orders:
A presidential executive order (EO) 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.

In many ways, presidential executive orders are similar to written orders, or instructions issued by the president of a corporation to its department heads or directors. Thirty days after being published in the Federal Register, executive orders take effect.

Learn about executive actions. Find out how U.S. presidents use executive actions. Read examples of executive actions. See how executive actions compare to executive orders.

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