The Great Gun-Control Referendum
Americans who hope to discover which gun-control measures will be pursued should the Biden-Harris ticket prevail in November’s presidential election will, for once, have no need of the secret decoder ring that is usually necessary when dealing with gun-control advocates and their platforms.
Typically, gun-controllers like to cloak their plans in euphemisms and obfuscation; they promise to close “loopholes” that are not loopholes, insist on “common-sense” measures that are neither commonly supported nor sensible in nature, proclaim that “nobody is suggesting” what they are suggesting and insist on a dramatic redefinition of elementary terms—“gun safety,” for example.
The Biden-Harris ticket, however, has been more direct. Indeed, to review the pair’s campaign literature is to grasp clearly where they stand on the Second Amendment: They are against it, and they wish to limit it as much as is politically possible. To quote the late, great Justice Antonin Scalia, this time the “wolf comes as a wolf.”
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To say that the Biden-Harris gun-control list is “comprehensive” would be a dramatic understatement. Rather, it represents a veritable inventory of every major gun-control measure that has been proposed during the last 30 years. Think of any policy you can—however outlandish—and you will be sure to discover it in there. If, as the press keeps insisting, the Biden-Harris ticket is “moderate,” one shudders to think what the “extreme” version might look like.
Given that both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are on the record supporting the confiscation of AR-15-type rifles—when asked during a 2019 television interview whether he hoped to confiscate AR-15s, Biden said “Bingo”; Harris, meanwhile, promised that if it were left to her she would conduct a “mandatory buyback” to “take off the streets” the “five million” to “ten million” semi-automatic rifles Americans now own—it should come as no surprise that one of the first items on their agenda is to do just this.
On his website, Biden takes responsibility for the now-expired 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban,” which he promises not only to renew but to make more extensive. Biden claims to have “learned” a great deal from his last attempt, such that any legislation that made it to his desk would prohibit entire weapons platforms. In essence, Biden is vowing to ban the sale of any contemporary rifle that Dianne Feinstein considers uncouth.
As for the millions of these rifles already in existence, Biden intends to give their owners a choice: Either (1) submit to a “mandatory buyback”—so, confiscation—order, or (2) register each and every qualifying gun under the terms of the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. The first option would represent the most-extreme, most-far-reaching and most-self-evidently illegal gun-control measure in the history of the United States. The second option is not much better than the first. To comply with the NFA, gun-owners would be obliged to pay the federal government $200 per gun, place themselves and their firearms on a national registry, supply fingerprints and photographs and submit to another more-extensive background check. Why? Because, that’s why.
In concert with this shift, Biden and Harris hope to implement nationwide the exact set of magazine restrictions that have just been struck down in California by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In his majority opinion nixing California’s law, Judge Kenneth Lee explained that the state’s 10-round limit “strikes at the core of the Second Amendment—the right to armed self-defense,” and noted that, although California lists these magazines as “high-capacity,” this definition is in fact “so sweeping that half of all magazines in America are now unlawful to own.” In conclusion, Lee confirmed that “even well-intentioned laws must pass constitutional muster.”
One would certainly think so. And yet, “constitutional muster” seems to be the last thing on Biden’s and Harris’ minds. In the 3,435 words that make up the plan, the only reference to the U.S. Constitution comes in a passage asserting that the scope of the Second Amendment is “limited.” Nor is there so much as pro forma acknowledgment that the more than 100 million Americans who routinely exercise their rights, both lawfully and responsibly, are not the enemy of the federal government. Alas, the contrary is true: Throughout the document, gun ownership and those who support it are so frequently cast as a problem to be solved or overruled that it almost made me yearn for the days when opponents of the right to keep and bear arms felt a need to at least pretend that they were supportive of this right.
Nowhere is this hostility more obvious than in the promise to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)—an idea that, if executed, would lead directly to the destruction of the firearms industry, and, with it, the right of the people to keep and bear arms. The PLCAA—a bipartisan measure that was passed 65-31 in the U.S. Senate and 283-144 in the U.S. House of Representatives—exists for one reason and one reason only: To prevent rogue actors from engaging in cynical legal activism in order to destroy the Second Amendment. Like Hillary Clinton before him, Joe Biden claims that the PLCAA is a carve-out that “protects [gun] manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products.” This is a brazen lie. By design, the PLCAA is silent on the question of civil liability per se, applying only to the misuse of products that function as intended. Or, to put it another way: Under the PLCAA, the manufacturer of a faulty gun can still be sued for selling a defective product, but the manufacturer of a working gun can’t be sued simply because, somehow, a criminal got ahold of it and used it to commit a crime.
One might assume that this distinction is so patently obvious as to render federal codification unnecessary; after all, the same rules apply to, say, Ford: If someone crashes an F-150 because the brakes fail, Ford is liable; if someone drives an F-150 into a crowd, Ford is not. And yet, given the number of political and judicial officials who had signaled their intention to sue out of existence any gun manufacturer with which they disagreed, the PLCAA was anything but unnecessary. Having been in the U.S. Senate back in 2005, Biden knows this well—and he knows, too, that the repeal of the PLCAA would be regarded by every anti-gun outfit in the United States as an open invitation to file frivolous lawsuits against gun makers and dealers.
This is also a good indication of just how radical Biden’s party has become on guns in 2020. The Biden-Harris ticket is trying to undo a provision in law that was so obviously necessary when it passed that even Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), that scourge of corporate America, was among those who voted “Yes.”
Not content merely to unleash a parade of activists and bad actors against the gun industry, the Biden-Harris plan also contains a host of provisions that are designed to harass, punish and annoy the law-abiding—and, ultimately, to relegate gun ownership in America from a right to a privilege. Perhaps the most alarming among these proposals is the promise that “Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun,” which is another way of saying that Biden hopes to take the money you send to the federal government and use it to bribe your state into demanding that you ask it for permission before exercising your constitutional rights.
Also included is the vow to implement a “universal background check” system that would require the federal government to go well beyond its enumerated powers and superintend all firearms transfers, as well as to create a sprawling federal gun registry of the sort that is currently prohibited by law. (No doubt this would come in handy when it came time to implement the planned confiscation-that is, “mandatory-buyback” drive that Biden and Harris have both supported.)
In the same irritate-them-until-they-give-up vein are plans to limit gun purchases to one per month; to ban the online sale of ammunition (apparently, criminals in search of ammo are in the habit of entering their name, address and credit card information into a digital database instead of walking anonymously into a store or buying secondhand); and to determine, from a bureaucrat’s office in Washington D.C., the precise manner in which you must store your firearms at home.
As for the people who may find themselves wrongly denied access to firearms, the Biden-Harris position is, in effect, “go pound sand.” As a matter of priority, Biden hopes to restore an Obama-era rule, since reversed by the Trump administration, which “prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms” anyone who has “been adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons.” Notably, though, Biden does not explain why this is important; does not point to a single incident that has been caused or exacerbated by its absence; and does not acknowledge that the rule was so widely opposed that the U.S. House of Representatives was supported in an attempt to repeal it by the ACLU, by a number of universities and by almost every single mental-health charity in the United States, all of whom made it clear that it was not only a mistake to conflate “unable to manage their affairs” and “mentally ill,” but that it was dangerous.
Likewise, Biden and Harris hope to weaken a crucial protection that is given to those who get wrongly caught up in the federal government’s background check system. Under federal law, all commercial firearms transactions are subject to an instant background check, which, if incomplete or inconclusive for any reason, is paused for a maximum of three days, during which the government may conduct further investigation. If, at the end of those three days, the government has found no impediment, the sale may go ahead. This arrangement codifies the “innocent until proven guilty” rule into firearms law and serves to balance the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the state. Under the Biden-Harris plan, this compromise would be obliterated in favor of the government, which would be granted the capacity to extend the waiting period to 10 days—more than a three-fold increase. It is said that a “right delayed is a right denied.” Nowhere is this more obvious than when one needs a gun for one’s protection.
That Joe Biden has some strange ideas about firearms has been obvious for a while now, what with all the talk of banning “AR-14s” and “50 clips in a weapon,” of firing shotguns through doors and mandating we buy mythical DNA-driven “James Bond-style” guns.
What has been less obvious, perhaps, is the extent to which he has absorbed the most-radical ideas emanating from the gun-control movement and made them his own. During the primary debates, Biden’s running mate laughed in his face when he suggested that some adherence to the U.S. Constitution was necessary. And yet, rather than repudiating her, Biden added her to his ticket and put her within a heartbeat of the presidency. By importing his gun-control platform directly from the dreams of the most-radical anti-Second Amendment activists in recent memory, he has shown a similar willingness to capitulate to the crazies. Whatever happens in November, nobody can say we weren’t warned.
Article by Charles C.W. Cooke