Contrary to what you may have heard today — from Bloomberg News, Huffington Post, Salon, and a million other places — President Obama did not sign 23 executive orders at his gun-control event this afternoon. What he did was initiate 23 "executive actions." An executive action is a vague term that can refer to anything done by the executive (the president). Some of the items on the White House's list of 23 "executive actions" — such as "Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health" and "Nominate an ATF director" — are more like personal priorities.
President Obama, in fact, didn't actually sign any executive orders today. He did issue three "presidential memoranda," which, respectively:
direct federal law enforcement to trace all guns taken in federal custody in the course of a criminal investigation
direct the Department of Justice to ensure that all applicable information from federal agencies is made available for background checks
and direct the Department of Health to "conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it."So, forget the right wing freakout - it is, as usual, misplaced.