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Meet Biden’s Gun-Control Team

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While running for president, Joe Biden said repeatedly that he’d act as a check on the radicals within his own party. When he became president, however, Biden quickly invited those radicals to serve alongside him in his cabinet.

Despite his rhetoric of “inclusion,” there is not a single person on Biden’s team who is committed to protecting the Second Amendment—and, worse, there are many who not only favor draconian restrictions upon the right to bear arms, but who were selected precisely because they favor such infringements. Here, as elsewhere, our forty-sixth president is proving the old adage that where politics is concerned, there is little truth in advertising.

They Want a Gun-Control Employee to Regulate Gun Stores
Far and away the worst of the president’s picks is David Chipman, an Everytown-linked activist who, as this was going to print, had been nominated to serve as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Among other things, Chipman has gone on the record arguing that the American Founders wanted firearms to be heavily regulated. He has proposed that AR-15s should be banned and that the names of existing owners be placed onto a federal list. And he has advocated for the creation of a national gun registry for the explicit purpose of allowing the government to know who owns what. Chipman, in fact, often criticizes gun ownership in general. During the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, he argued that gun stores should be forcibly closed to prevent people from buying firearms.

Why? Because he believes that the very act of owning a gun is irrational. Chipman has been feted by the media as an “expert” in firearms. And yet, despite this supposed expertise, he seems to know nothing at all about gun owners. When corrected on a technical matter by a Facebook user last year, Chipman attacked him as a “gun troll.” He also said the man correcting him was just “jealous [that] racists are getting all the attention.”

Angry that Americans were still buying guns during the pandemic, Chipman suggested that new gun owners were irrationally preparing for the “Zombie apocalypse.” “Once they see no zombies around but they’ve run out of tuna and beef jerky,” he said, they might realize that “they need the money to buy food.”

It does not take a soothsayer to grasp how an ATF run by Chipman would behave as head of the very agency tasked with overseeing gun dealers. Last year, he was merely writing blog posts urging governors to close gun stores during the pandemic; if confirmed to a federal post, he may be able to do it. As the point man for all of President Biden’s proposed executive actions, Chipman would push for maximalist outcomes at every point. For example, Biden wants to limit what he calls “ghost guns” by altering the ATF’s definition of a “firearm” so that it includes unfinished lower receivers, a policy that may seem somewhat narrow, but that could easily be used to cast any potential component of a gun as the gun itself and thereby end the centuries-long tradition of Americans building and personalizing firearms at home.

Dr. Vivek Murthy

Chipman, who has expressed horror at the idea of private citizens owning guns that the government doesn’t know about, is unlikely to pass up an opportunity to write such regulations as broadly as is possible.

Equally as alarming as his contempt is Chipman’s bad habit of inventing stories to back up his political preferences. Asked about .50-caliber firearms during a recent “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit, Chipman acknowledged that such firearms are rarely used in crimes, but then suggested that they presented a problem nevertheless because, at Waco, the Branch Davidians had used “.50 caliber Barretts” to shoot down “two Texas Air National Guard helicopters.” This, of course, never happened. No helicopters were shot down at Waco. It was a lie. 

Naturally, a man who is capable of telling such lies is also capable of blurring legal definitions in an attempt to rewrite statutory law. At his press conference in April, President Biden said that arm braces somehow turn AR pistols into short-barreled rifles and that AR pistols with such accessories should, in consequence, be classified under the 1934 NFA. This is a factually ridiculous argument that the ATF has already rejected twice. Who, though, can doubt that under Chipman’s leadership it would be resuscitated, post haste?

They Think Freedom is a “Public Health” Problem
Also chosen for Biden’s cabinet because of his gun-control advocacy, rather than in spite of his gun-control advocacy, is Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is currently in his second term as surgeon general. In 2014, when Murthy was last appointed to the role, the media was open about who Murthy is and what he believes. “Senate Confirms Gun-Control Advocate as Surgeon General” read the headline on a story in The Atlantic that noted that “the confirmation represents a victory for gun-control advocates, even as recent polling has shown Americans moving in the other direction toward gun-rights protections.”

Among the issues that had arisen, the magazine explained, was that Murthy had signed a letter put out by his advocacy group, Doctors for Obama, that affirmed, “we are unwavering in our belief that strong measures to reduce gun violence must be taken immediately.” By which, of course, he meant that he wanted to “remove” the AR-type rifles and magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, to implement “universal background checks,” to force anyone who wishes to purchase guns or ammunition to obtain a federal license, to encourage doctors to discuss guns with their patients and to recast the Second Amendment as a “public-health” problem that government must first “study” and then “solve.”

Murthy has not changed. Four months after his confirmation in 2014, he told The Washington Post that he regretted nothing. “The statements I’ve made in the past about gun violence being a public health issue,” he explained, “I stand by those comments.” He stands by them now, too, having explained to Sen. Mike Braun (R) during this year’s confirmation hearing that he still considered “gun violence” to be a public health issue that the federal government should study. So steadfast has he been, in fact, that his nomination was cheered by the Brady Campaign as “signaling the need to approach gun violence as a public health threat.”

What does that mean? It means that Murthy will play the same game that all advocates of “the need to approach gun violence as a public health threat” do. First, he will insist that violence committed with firearms is equivalent to a disease such as COVID-19. Then, he will submit that we all agree that we must get rid of diseases, and so what we are really debating is how. Next, he will contend that the way to get rid of diseases is to study them, and then to do what the studies conclude. Then, using some of the $25 million of your money that Congress allocated to the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he will encourage the development of studies that are pre-determined to posit that what he already wants is the answer. And, finally, he will use his position as surgeon general to testify that, after a period of investigation, the “science” has demanded he get his own way. Neat!

Also devoted to the “public-health” model is Murthy’s colleague, Xavier Becerra, who is now serving as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Like Murthy, the Brady Campaign says that Becerra understands “that the federal government must take a public health approach to address the most pressing health challenges our country faces.” Which, again, means nothing more nuanced, sophisticated, or lofty than that Becerra is on board with the entirety of Joe Biden’s gun-control agenda, and that he intends to pretend that the “science” demands it. Together, Murthy and Becerra are the most-influential health officials in the United States.

They Want More Executive Orders
That President Biden has gone in this direction should not be surprising to anybody who has been paying attention. Indeed, it should have been obvious when he picked Kamala Harris as his running mate after Kamala Harris laughed in his face when he told her the U.S. Constitution prevented her from taking away firearms by executive order. (“Hey Joe,” Harris said, “instead of saying ‘no, we can’t’, let’s say ‘yes, we can.’”). What Harris said was disqualifying—not only on Second Amendment grounds, but on elementary constitutional grounds. And yet, having heard her say it—to him—Biden decided to put her within a heartbeat of the presidency.

What, exactly, does Biden think Harris will try to do if she takes over from him? She is already on record arguing that she can prohibit the importation of AR-type rifles without Congress, and she will certainly have noticed when Biden’s choice for attorney general, Merrick Garland, told the U.S. Senate that he did not know whether this—or something even more dramatic—would be legal. “I am unfamiliar with this issue and cannot offer an opinion on that question,” Garland said. As she made clear during the Democrat primary, Harris, by contrast, knows exactly what her opinion is.

This Administration is Gun-Control, Inc.
Throw a dart at this cabinet and you’ll find a gun-controller. Merrick Garland, the attorney general, had an extensive anti-Second Amendment paper trail long before he sat in his current chair. As a D.C. Circuit judge, Garland had a bad habit of only calling for re-hearings in cases where his court upheld gun rights and, in 2000, he voted to permit the FBI to keep background check records for so much longer than the Brady Law permitted that the drafter of the provision under consideration cried foul. Garland’s position in that case, Michael E. Hammond explained in the press, was flatly “contrary to statutory law.” Which is why it should be of no reassurance whatsoever that Garland told the Senate that “the role of the Justice Department is to advance the policy program of the administration as long as it is consistent with the law.”

Sure. But one must ask: Which law? The one that is written down, or the one that Garland would like to be written down?

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Attorney General Merrick Garland built an extensive anti-Second Amendment record during his years as a judge.

As he moves ahead, Biden will receive only affirmation from his cabinet. Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, has said that it is “critical that we ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” and believes that there should be no limit on how long the federal government can delay a citizen from buying a gun.

Jennifer Granholm, the energy secretary, is also for a ban on “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” (standard-capacity) magazines.

Susan Rice, head of the Domestic Policy Council, favors a ban on the sale “assault weapons” and on “high-capacity” magazines and wants to “buy back” (i.e., confiscate) those already sold.

Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, has signed a manifesto arguing that the government should mandate non-existent “smart guns.”

Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce, sought to force buyers in Rhode Island to ask the police for permission before exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Marcia Fudge, the HUD secretary, is against “stand-your-ground” laws and wants to imprison Americans who own “high-capacity” magazines for up to 10 years.

And then there is Jen Psaki, the hapless White House press secretary who responded to Beto O’Rourke’s famous promise to confiscate the most-commonly owned rifle in America by tweeting, “Thank You @BetoORourke take guns. Please! No one needs an assault weapon. This is a crisis,” and argued “Gun registration yes yes yes. It is a public health emergency and if any issue gets mothers out to the polls it should be this one.”

For obvious reasons, Psaki has stopped tweeting such things. And yet she remains a perfect spokesperson for a cabinet that cannot say “take guns. PLEASE!” out loud, but which will instead work around the edges—by pretending that the abuse of firearms can be treated like the flu, by massaging existing law so that it is more difficult for Americans to build and modify guns at home or transfer them between family members, by spreading misinformation about gun shows or by distorting the nature of semi-automatic rifles or the scope of the Second Amendment.

In a more-stable political culture, the members of President Biden’s cabinet would not matter a great deal. But, having announced that he “will not wait for Congress to act,” President Biden has ensured that they do. Americans who wish to protect their most-sacred rights must now be on their guard for attacks from every direction.

Article by Charles C.W. Cooke


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