If we have a Joe Biden administration in the White House on Jan. 20, we will have the most overtly anti-gun president in American history.
Biden’s plan lists effectively every gun control measure ever proposed: banning “assault weapons,” banning “high-capacity” magazines, limiting the number of guns an American can purchase, holding manufacturers liable for the criminal misuse of their products, and many, many more.
Out of the myriad options a Biden administration will have to infringe on our constitutional protections, which will they choose first? Based on my experience with clients and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (AFT) as a firearms attorney, some recent news events, and a bit of firearm-industry intuition, I think the first things a Biden administration will do regarding guns if given the chance are:
- Banning pistol braces
- Banning homemade firearms/80 percent receivers
- Banning online firearm and ammunition sales
Shortly after the first bans, and if he has the help of the Senate, the next gun control measures will likely be:
- Banning “assault weapons”
- Banning “high capacity” magazines
- Requiring universal background checks
Let’s examine each of these in turn.
1. Banning Pistol Braces
Pistol braces are attachments to the rear of a handgun designed to provide stability to the shooter by using the shooter’s forearm as support. Currently, adding a pistol brace to a handgun does not change the firearm’s legal status as a handgun. This is why pistol braces are so popular.
If a buttstock (a device designed to allow the firearm to be fired from the shooter’s shoulder) were added to the same firearm instead of a pistol brace, then the firearm would change classification to a rifle and significant legal implications could occur. Under federal law, a rifle must have a barrel length of at least 16 inches to avoid classification as a “short-barreled rifle” and be subject to extra restrictions, registration, and taxes.
As most of these pistols with pistol braces have barrels shorter than 16 inches, their status as a non-rifle is legally significant. If Biden is able to ban pistol braces, millions of otherwise law-abiding gun owners would become criminals overnight.
The ATF has already signaled that banning pistol braces is their number-one priority. This is one more odd move by the ATF, which originally certified the devices as non-buttstocks, then determined they couldn’t be shouldered, rescinding their opinion, and now wants to ban them outright. In fact, their legal gymnastics are so difficult to follow and unfair, Rep. Matt Gaetz has been unsuccessfully looking for answers on ATF’s overreach.
2. Banning Homemade Firearms
Under federal law it is perfectly legal for anyone who is legally allowed to possess a firearm to make his own gun at home for personal use. In the past few years, companies have offered components to make it even easier to make your own firearm at home.
These frames or receivers, often called “80 percent receivers,” have not yet crossed the legal line into becoming a firearm. In most cases, the ATF has specifically made a determination that the object is not “readily convertible” into a firearm and is therefore a non-gun.
Anti-gunners have long been against these homemade firearms and 80 percent frames/receivers, which they call “ghost guns” for their lack of traceability, and a few states have already banned them. We knew this would be a priority for a Biden administration but the ATF, just this week, raided the largest “80 percent” manufacturer, accusing them of unlawfully making and selling firearms despite giving permission to that company a few years ago.
3. Banning Online Firearm and Ammunition Sales
Firearms and ammunition can be legally purchased online. This upsets anti-gunners.
A firearm, once purchased online, must follow the same rules as any other firearm transaction. A firearm may not be purchased from a gun dealer online and shipped straight to someone’s home. It must be shipped to a local gun dealer, where the customer must appear to fill out paperwork and satisfy background check requirements.
Ammunition, on the other hand, may be purchased online and shipped straight to someone’s home under federal law (some states restrict this).
Biden proposes to end all online firearm and ammunition sales, which would require customers to forgo the benefits of e-commerce they enjoy for almost every other product in their lives, such as competitive pricing and product availability.
4. Banning ‘Assault Weapons’
The anti-gun movement learned a few lessons from their previous federal “assault weapons” ban. First, their previous ban had a sunset provision that allowed the ban to expire in 2004. Second, the ban focused on cosmetic features of firearms.
Biden has explained in his gun-control proposal that a new ban will be tougher and not allow firearm manufacturers to circumvent it with “minor changes that don’t change a weapon’s lethality.” With that standard, we can only assume that he intends to permanently ban all semi-automatic rifles.
Currently, his proposal includes plans to either “buy back” currently owned “assault rifles” or require their registration under the National Firearms Act (NFA) with the payment of a $200 tax each.
5. Banning ‘High-Capacity’ Magazines
The Biden administration wants to ban detachable magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. This effort will likely be easier for them than banning “assault weapons,” as they’ll try to argue that they aren’t effecting a gun ban at all.
As with “assault weapons,” these will be outright banned and there will be an option to surrender magazines for money or register each magazine as an NFA firearm and pay a $200 tax each.
6. Universal Background Checks
Currently, background check requirements apply to all firearm transactions conducted through a federally licensed firearm dealer. However, under federal law, private party transactions in the same state may occur without a background check as long as the seller has no reason to believe that the recipient is a person prohibited from possessing a firearm. For example, a friend may loan a firearm to another during a hunting trip.
Universal background checks place a government barrier around a fundamental right and will, in effect, create a national firearm registry in order for the government to enforce and verify current possession of a firearm.
Biden has already promised that he wants to take your guns and laid out plans to do so. With Democrats possibly poised to control all of Congress, expect them to follow through on these public promises.
This article has been corrected.