If there was any question why gun sales have shot through the roof in 2020, it’s not just Coronavirus and national protests. Election years stoke the flames that fuel Americans’ pursuit of the Second Amendment. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, who today became the Democrat nominee for Vice President, may be two of the most radically ‘progressive’ candidates ever nominated. They’ve both proposed draconian gun control measures. Harris herself believes Americans don’t possess the individual right to own a gun. She thinks it conflicts with public safety, but more on that later. These two candidates’ gun control measures dowse those constitutional flames with kerosene. While we hurdle chaotically toward November 3rd, 2020, let’s unpack some of the anti-gun statements and campaign promises made by Democrat front-runners Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.
Riding the liberal energy that has swept the nation this year, Joe Biden’s campaign website proudly displays a long list comprising the various gun control measures he promises to institute if he wins the Oval Office. Before getting into those initiatives, though, Biden’s web page introduces a damning figure: Forty-thousand Americans die as a result of firearm injuries every year (the data cited only cover 2017). It’s a smart tactic by Biden’s propagandists; briefly glossing over this number sets up just how justifiable the Democrat candidate’s gun control policies must be. We think it’s important to note that six in ten of 2017’s gun-related deaths were suicides, leaving approximately 14,542 cases of murder with a firearm.
If Biden wants to justify gun control with this number, let’s put it into context. The Department of Justice says almost 70,000 Americans use a firearm in self-defense every year. A comprehensive survey conducted by Gary Kleck in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology found between 2.1 and 2.5 million Americans use a gun defensively each year. Going by the DOJ’s figures, firearms are used for lawful self-defense, that is, to save lives, five times more than they are used in a murder. Going by Kleck’s peer-reviewed study, the figures aren’t even comparable. Even though more than 10,000 Americans die each year from drunk driving, no one is discussing a new prohibition. Certainly not Joe Biden. Blaming alcohol for DUIs and banning it doesn’t make sense nor does it work, remember? We digress. Biden’s gun control plan, straight from the dog-faced pony soldier’s mouth:
- Hold gun manufacturers accountable. In 2005, then-Senator Biden voted against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, but gun manufacturers successfully lobbied Congress to secure its passage. This law protects these manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products – a protection granted to no other industry. Biden will prioritize repealing this protection.
- Get weapons of war off our streets. The bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that Biden, along with Senator Feinstein, secured in 1994 reduced the lethality of mass shootings. But, in order to secure the passage of the bans, they had to agree to a 10-year sunset provision and when the time came, the Bush Administration failed to extend them. As president, Biden will:
- Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Federal law prevents hunters from hunting migratory game birds with more than three shells in their shotgun. That means our federal law does more to protect ducks than children. It’s wrong. Joe Biden will enact legislation to once again ban assault weapons. This time, the bans will be designed based on lessons learned from the 1994 bans. For example, the ban on assault weapons will be designed to prevent manufacturers from circumventing the law by making minor changes that don’t limit the weapon’s lethality. While working to pass this legislation, Biden will also use his executive authority to ban the importation of assault weapons.
- Regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Currently, the National Firearms Act requires individuals possessing machine-guns, silencers, and short-barreled rifles to undergo a background check and register those weapons with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Due to these requirements, such weapons are rarely used in crimes. As president, Biden will pursue legislation to regulate possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act.
- Buy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities. Biden will also institute a program to buy back weapons of war currently on our streets. This will give individuals who now possess assault weapons or high-capacity magazines two options: sell the weapons to the government, or register them under the National Firearms Act.
- Reduce stockpiling of weapons. In order to reduce the stockpiling of firearms, Biden supports legislation restricting the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.
- Keep guns out of dangerous hands. The federal background check system (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) is one of the best tools we have to prevent gun violence, but it’s only effective when it’s used. Biden will enact universal background check legislation and close other loopholes that allow people who should be prohibited from purchasing firearms from making those purchases. Specifically, he will:
- Require background checks for all gun sales. Today, an estimated 1 in 5 firearms are sold or transferred without a background check. Biden will enact universal background check legislation, requiring a background check for all gun sales with very limited exceptions, such as gifts between close family members. This will close the so-called “gun show and online sales loophole” that the Obama-Biden Administration narrowed, but which cannot be fully closed by executive action alone.
- Close other loopholes in the federal background check system. In addition to closing the “boyfriend loophole” highlighted below, Biden will:
- Reinstate the Obama-Biden policy to keep guns out of the hands of certain people unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons, which President Trump reversed. In 2016, the Obama-Biden Administration finalized a rule to make sure the Social Security Administration (SSA) sends to the background check system records that it holds of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms because they have been adjudicated by the SSA as unable to manage their affairs for mental reasons. But one of the first actions Donald Trump took as president was to reverse this rule. President Biden will enact legislation to codify this policy.
- Close the “hate crime loophole.” Biden will enact legislation prohibiting an individual “who has been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime, or received an enhanced sentence for a misdemeanor because of hate or bias in its commission” from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
- Close the “Charleston loophole.” The Charleston loophole allows people to complete a firearms purchase if their background check is not completed within three business days. Biden supports the proposal in the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019, which extends the timeline from three to 10 business days. Biden will also direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to put on his desk within his first 100 days as president a report detailing the cases in which background checks are not completed within 10 business days and steps the federal government can take to reduce or eliminate this occurrence.
- Close the “fugitive from justice” loophole created by the Trump Administration. Because of actions by the Trump Administration, records of almost 500,000 fugitives from justice who are prohibited from purchasing firearms were deleted from the background check system. The Biden Administration will restore these records, and enact legislation to make clear that people facing arrest warrants are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.
- End the online sale of firearms and ammunitions. Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.
- Create an effective program to ensure individuals who become prohibited from possessing firearms relinquish their weapons. Federal law defines categories of individuals who are prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms, and the federal background check system is an effective tool for ensuring prohibited persons cannot purchase firearms. But we lack any serious tool to ensure that when someone becomes newly prohibited – for example, because they commit a violent crime – they relinquish possession of their firearms. There are some promising models for how this could be enforced. For example, California has a mandatory process for ensuring relinquishment by any individual newly subject to a domestic violence restraining order. As president, Biden will direct the FBI and ATF to outline a model relinquishment process, enact any necessary legislation to ensure relinquishment when individuals newly fall under one of the federal prohibitions, and then provide technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to establish effective relinquishment processes on their own.
- Incentivize state “extreme risk” laws. Extreme risk laws, also called “red flag” laws, enable family members or law enforcement officials to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms when that individual is in crisis and poses a danger to themselves or others. Biden will incentivize the adoption of these laws by giving states funds to implement them. And, he’ll direct the U.S. Department of Justice to issue best practices and offer technical assistance to states interested in enacting an extreme risk law.
- Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs. Biden will enact legislation to give states and local governments grants to require individuals to obtain a license prior to purchasing a gun.
- Adequately fund the background check system. President Obama and Vice President Biden expanded incentives for states to submit records of prohibited persons into the background checks system. As president, Biden will continue to prioritize that funding and ensure that the FBI is adequately funded to accurately and efficiently handle the NICS system.
- Put America on the path to ensuring that 100% of firearms sold in America are smart guns. Today, we have the technology to allow only authorized users to fire a gun. For example, existing smart gun technology requires a fingerprint match before use. Biden believes we should work to eventually require that 100% of firearms sold in the U.S. are smart guns. But, right now the NRA and gun manufacturers are bullying firearms dealers who try to sell these guns. Biden will stand up against these bullying tactics and issue a call to action for gun manufacturers, dealers, and other public and private entities to take steps to accelerate our transition to smart guns.
- Hold adults accountable for giving minors access to firearms. Biden supports legislation holding adults criminally and civilly liable for directly or negligently giving a minor access to a firearm, regardless of whether the minor actually gains possession of the firearm.
- Require gun owners to safely store their weapons. Biden will pass legislation requiring firearm owners to store weapons safely in their homes.
- Prioritize prosecution of straw purchasers. “Straw purchasers” buy a firearm on behalf of an individual who cannot pass a background check. Biden will end those loopholes by enacting a law to make all straw purchases a serious federal crime and ensure the U.S. Justice Department has sufficient resources to prioritize their prosecution.
- Notify law enforcement when a potential firearms purchaser fails a background check. Too often, when prohibited persons attempting to buy a firearm fail a background check, state and local law enforcement is never informed of the attempt. As president, Biden will direct the FBI to set up a process to ensure timely notification of denials to state and local law enforcement, and he’ll support legislation to codify this process. This empowers law enforcement to follow up and ensure prohibited persons do not attempt to acquire firearms through other means.
- Require firearms owners to report if their weapon is lost or stolen. Responsible gun owners have a responsibility to inform law enforcement if their weapon is lost or stolen. Biden will enact legislation to make this the law of the land.
- Stop “ghost guns.” One way people who cannot legally obtain a gun may gain access to a weapon is by assembling a one on their own, either by buying a kit of disassembled gun parts or 3D printing a working firearm. Biden will stop the proliferation of these so-called “ghost guns” by passing legislation requiring that purchasers of gun kits or 3D printing code pass a federal background check. Additionally, Biden will ensure that the authority for firearms exports stays with the State Department, and if needed reverse a proposed rule by President Trump. This will ensure the State Department continues to block the code used to 3D print firearms from being made available on the Internet.
- Reform, fund, and empower the U.S. Justice Department to enforce our gun laws. Biden will direct his Attorney General to deliver to him within his first 100 days a set of recommendations for restructuring the ATF and related Justice Department agencies to most effectively enforce our gun laws. Biden will then work to secure sufficient funds for the Justice Department to effectively enforce our existing gun laws, increase the frequency of inspections of firearms dealers, and repeal riders that get in the way of that work.
- Direct the ATF to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking. This report will provide officials with critical information to better identify strategies for curbing firearms trafficking.
Exhausting, isn’t it? Those are twenty-seven comprehensive gun control measures. Half or more of these proposals are capable of gumming up the Supreme Court for a year or two. Of course, the list got too exhaustive and some less impactful measures aren’t even included. Biden also promises to throw money at firearm research and seeks to prevent any public school system from paying for teachers to carry confidently. Even the staunchest liberal or Democrat foot soldier must admit that some of these proposals are pure rhetoric meant to energize a base. “Biden will enact legislation to prohibit all online sales of firearms, ammunition, kits, and gun parts.” Really?
Other promises made by the 77-year-old candidate, such as a reinstatement of the federal assault weapon ban and high-capacity magazine ban (which did not work), forced registration of all “assault weapons” as NFA items, national red flag laws, bans on 3D printers and firearm kits, restrictions on monthly gun purchases, and incentivizing states to begin issuing unconstitutional licensing schemes for Second Amendment access, are just as draconian as a brash attempt to ban online gun sales. Except these other measures have a very real chance of making their way to Biden’s potential new digs at the Resolute Desk, especially if Congress is swamped anew with blue.
The running gag is, of course, that Biden’s VP pick could very well be required to … Step in suddenly. So, what kind of person does Kamala Harris seem to be when guns are the topic? “Upon being elected, I will give the United States Congress 100 days to get their act together and have the Courage to pass reasonable gun safety laws. And if they fail to do it, then I will take executive action.”
If I’m elected President, I will skip Congress and make my own gun control with executive orders.
It gets worse. Harris once quipped that, “Well, the ATF has been doing a lot of the ‘A’ and the ‘T,’ but not much of the ‘F.’ And we need to fix that.” You mean the ATF that ran guns to Mexican drug cartels for the Obama administration? The ATF responsible for Waco and Ruby Ridge? The ATF that created so many convoluted policies and legal opinions since its inception that a judge almost ruled against the agency by declaring the AR-15 can’t legally be considered a firearm? Because That ATF certainly doesn’t need to be doing anything more about “the ‘F’.”
In 2008, Harris argued that Washington, D.C.’s clearly unconstitutional ban on handgun ownership did not violate the Second Amendment. When she was DA in San Francisco, she signed an amcus brief filed in the Supreme Court over the Heller case. The brief, written by then-Attorney General for D.C. Adrian Fenty, argued “that for nearly 70 years courts have consistently sustained criminal firearms laws against Second Amendment challenges by holding that, inter alia, “i” the Second Amendment provides only a militia-related right to bear arms, (ii) the Second Amendment does not apply to legislation passed by state or local governments, and (iii) the restrictions bear a reasonable relationship to protecting public safety and thus do not violate a personal constitutional right.” The intent of the brief was to uphold the District’s ban on handgun ownership and a firearm storage law requiring all privately owned guns to be kept locked or disassembled with ammunition stored separately, when not in use.
Illustrating an active disagreement with the purpose of the Second Amendment, Fenty, Harris, and other prosecutors concluded that to rescind these laws would “create a broad private right to possess any firearm that is a ‘lineal descendant’ of a founding era weapon and that is in ‘common use’ with a military application today.” Is that not the purpose of the Second Amendment? Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas agrees that the text of the amendment and the Supreme Court’s prior case law create a fundamental right that is violated by a ban on assault weapons, a waiting period for gun purchases, and limits on high-capacity magazines. “[W]e hold,” the Court wrote in Heller v. District of Columbia, “that [D.C.’s] ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”
What does it say about the state of the Constitution when the next potential Vice President can say she argued against the Second Amendment’s core premise with the Supreme Court (and thankfully lost)? Before losing her bid in the Presidential race, Harris also said, “Supposed leaders in Washington, D.C., who have failed to have the courage to recognize, you know what, you want to go hunting, that’s fine, but we need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapon ban. But they have failed to have the courage to act.” Harris implied the purpose of the Second Amendment is to support hunting. Should any Vice President be allowed to hold office with such gross misinterpretations of the Bill of Rights? A well-regulated militia was not guaranteed to the American people for the sake of getting a trophy buck. Driving home the scope of her Constitutional misgivings, Harris reiterated Biden’s calls for a renewed assault weapon ban and made the promise on her campaign trail that an executive order made by her would include such a ban.
Harris was only today announced as Biden’s running mate for November, so the VP candidate’s website is not yet live for us to review her official gun control proposals. At best, her past statements and her now-destined alignment with Biden’s proposals make Kamala Harris another elected opponent against gun rights in America. At worst, Joe Biden (and less likely, Kamala Harris) could next year be the president who turns millions of Americans into felons with a signature. Kerosene, indeed.