I’m not going to lie, it’s tedious constantly pointing out the same dishonest contentions of the anti-gun left. The nation would probably take Joe Biden’s gun demagoguery more seriously if the president and his staff occasionally cooked up some new material. Because last night’s plea for more gun control was a rehashing of the same archaic policy ideas, bad analogies, and lies that Democrats tend to drop after every shooting.
The Second Amendment Isn’t ‘Absolute’
The president, as he almost always does, began with this strawman. The Second Amendment, Biden claimed, “like all other rights, is not absolute.” (All? Fans of the 13th Amendment might find this a bit surprising.) There are, of course, already tens of thousands of laws governing individual gun ownership in the United States. More laws and regulations exist restricting the Second Amendment than any other right in the Constitution, and it’s not particularly close. “Voting rights” advocates treat photo ID laws as if they were tantamount to fascism. Well, practicing your right to self-defense is contingent on an FBI background check.
Indeed, the notion that gun ownership is “absolute” would not mesh with the experiences of those living in a blue city like Baltimore, (58.27 homicides per 100,000), Washington D.C. (23.52), or Chicago (18.26), where, despite the Heller and McDonald decisions further codifying the individual right to own firearms, legally purchasing a handgun remains unconstitutionally challenging.
Banning Assault Weapons
Biden quoted Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller, saying, “It was Justice Scalia who wrote, and I quote: ‘Like most rights, the right Second Amendment — the rights granted by the Second Amendment are not unlimited.’ Not unlimited. It never has been.” (Thankfully, he spared us his historically illiterate diatribes on cannons, “deer in Kevlar,” and “yelling fire in a crowded theater.”)
Democrats habitually isolate this line from Heller, a decision they simultaneously contend catastrophically concocted an individual right to firearm ownership. But Scalia’s line, read in context of the decision’s finding that the Second Amendment protects a right to possess a firearm unconnected from militia service, only upholds the legality of states limiting “dangerous and unusual weapons,” not weapons “in common use” by “law-abiding citizens.” The AR-15, and similar rifles, easily meet the latter criteria. It is not only the most popular rifle in the nation, it is one of the types of firearms least used in criminality. Which is why Democrats try to convince the public that AR-15s are “weapons of war,” and thus exceptionally “dangerous and unusual.” This is simply wrong. AR-15s are less a weapon of war than a 9mm handgun (which, earlier this week, the president suggested should be banned, as well).
Moreover, Heller found prohibition on an entire class of “arms” Americans “overwhelmingly choose” to be unconstitutional. So, the notion that Scalia would support outlawing semi-automatic rifles — whose mechanisms are virtually the same as most firearms — is risible. In fact, I’m not sure that existing “assault weapons” bans wouldn’t be (rightfully) stuck down if they were challenged before the Supreme Court.
Biden also made the debatable claim that in the decade the “assault weapon” ban was in force, mass shootings went down. “But after Republicans let the law expire in 2004, and those weapons were allowed to be sold again, mass shootings tripled,” Biden said. “Those are the facts.” You won’t be surprised to learn that they’re not.
Unmentioned by Biden is the fact that after the “assault weapon ban” sunset in 2004, gun crimes kept precipitously dropping. In the 15 years immediately following the sunsetting, overall homicides fell 10 out of 15 years. Twenty-one years after gun violence peaked in 1993, and a decade after the assault weapon ban ended, homicides by firearms hit the lowest point since 1976. By that time, the AR-15 had become the most popular rifle in the country. (A 1999 Justice Department study also found that the ban failed “to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multiple gunshot wound victims.”)
And, though Republicans may have let the law expire in 2004, as John McCormack has pointed out, Harry Reid didn’t bring an assault weapon ban to the floor of the Senate until 2013, after the Newtown massacre. At the time, Democrats controlled the Senate, and 16 of their senators voted against the bill, including Michael Bennet, Joe Manchin, and Jon Tester. Do the Democrats even have 50 votes for a ban?
Raising the Age to Purchase an AR-15 from 18 to 21
This is less about mendaciousness than it is about contemporary liberalism being a giant game of Calvinball. Numerous high-profile Democrats support the idea of allowing 16-year-olds to participate in the most vital, sacred, indispensable rite of democracy: voting. Then again, when it comes to government-mandated health care insurance, they believe that Americans should be treated like children until they’re 26-year-olds. But they also seem perfectly fine with 18-year-olds joining the Armed Forces — but not with the same men and women buying a drink or practicing the right to self-defense.
In the real world, maturity differs from person to person, from place to place. The average age of the mass shooter, after all, is 33. But if we’re going to come up with an arbitrary year that marks the beginning of adulthood, it should remain consistent. If you’re ready to vote you’re ready to practice all your rights. Of course, the notion that the founders would have been shocked by an 18-year-old carrying a firearm — a claim I get a lot — is also nonsense. The “teenager” is a 20th-century invention. In the 19th century, you were a child and then you were an adult. And adulthood began early.
(Biden’s contention that firearms “are the number one killer of children in the United States of America … more than car accidents, more than cancer,” is, as Brad Polumbo notes, also quite misleading.)
Repealing Gun Manufacturers’ Immunity from Liability
Gun manufacturers, says the president, “are the only industry in this country that has that kind of immunity.” This is a perniciously stupid lie. Gun manufacturers do not hold any special protections. If a firearm malfunctions due to shoddy design or subpar production, or if gun maker misleads consumers, they, like every other manufacturer in the nation, can be sued. If guns work correctly but are used in illegal acts, they, like every other industry, can’t. In the same way, an SUV maker isn’t liable when a killer intentionally plows into a crowd of people killing six people, and neither is a manufacturer when someone uses a baseball bat and a knife to murder three of his coworkers.
Biden went on to say, “Imagine. Imagine if the tobacco industry had been immune from being sued, where we’d be today. The gun industry’s special protections are outrageous. It must end.” It’s revealing that Biden, who claims to respect “the culture and the tradition and the concerns of lawful gun owners,” compares cigarettes to a constitutionally protected right. One of these two products could be banned tomorrow if politicians so desired. The other — I’m sorry, Joe — can’t.