Biden’s gun speech strong on partisan talking points, weak on workable solutions
Thursday night, President Joe Biden took to the airwaves to push for a comprehensive national gun control strategy once again. Under the amorphous charge to “do something,” he proposed several solutions of varying degrees of relevance to recent high-profile shootings in Tulsa, Uvalde, and Buffalo. Unfortunately, while the nation collectively mourns the senseless loss of life experienced in these shootings and others, the ideas on offer were more partisan exhortations than actionable solutions.
This is not the first time that Biden has assumed the mantle of “common sense gun control” champion. In 1994, the then-senator took up the chamber’s efforts on the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, also known as the “Crime Bill.”
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the recent mass shootings from the White House on June 02, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Among other provisions, the bill prohibited the production of certain semiautomatic firearms—”assault weapons” —based on largely cosmetic features that have no bearing on the mechanical function or lethality of the weapon. In period following the 10-year sunset of the “assault weapons ban” provision of the Crime Bill, there was no corresponding increase in gun crime, much like there was no suppression effect during the ban’s pendency.
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While the president didn’t go into detail about what an “assault weapons ban” would include, he did repeatedly suggest repealing the firearm industry’s “liability shield,” a misleading talking point stemming from the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005. The legislation held that firearms manufactured are not subject to vicarious liability when their products are misused in criminal activity.
Nearly all industries are protected in canon from frivolous lawsuit when their wares are used for ill, such as the manufacturer of the sport utility vehicle used in Waukesha would not face harm for the evil that was done. Yet, firearm manufactures, like all other industries, are subject to civil judgments covering a myriad of business issues.
He continued to suggest that raising national age for purchasing a rifle from 18 to 21. While this may have inconvenienced the attacker in the Uvalde shooting—although with 78 minutes the gunman could have exacted a similar toll with a bowie knife—this poses the question: “should rights be limited by what an infinitesimally small minority do to abuse them?”
A police officer comforts family members at a memorial outside Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday, May 26.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Should we similarly restrict the franchise? If so, then Congress should take up debate about age-qualifying the Second Amendment, much like has been done in the 26th Amendment.
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President Biden mentioned “safe storage” and “red flag laws,” seemingly moderate proposals that the vast majority of Americans could plausibly support. After all, no one wants the wrong people—whether those too young to properly use a firearm or those suffering from mental illness that could lead to that weapon being used for evil—in possession of an instrument that can be lethal when misused. Unfortunately, these proposals rarely produce the desired outcomes they are passed in order to achieve, to say nothing about the manifold constitutional issues that attend them.
Images of AR-15 rifles
Biden (and more relevantly his staff) have frequently touted that he has “beaten the gun lobby in the past.” While he has certainly prevailed contra the National Rifle Association on matters which the organization opposed, evoking the specter of the “gun lobby” falsely suggests that there is some shadowy blood-pact cabal.
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In reality, the “gun lobby” is just a handful of disagreeing organizations, albeit with millions upon millions of members in support. This is to say nothing about how the firearms industry has its own separate trade group in the form the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Simply put, the “gun lobby” is a convenient boogeyman for the millions of law-abiding citizens who responsibly use and store their weapons. Placing restrictions on this population will not make anyone safer and serve to further polarize the debate on gun violence.
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The loss of friends, family, and neighbors experienced in Uvalde, Buffalo, and in every one of these horrific mass shooting events requires us to have good-faith, sober conversations about what might have been done to prevent these tragedies.
People pay their respects outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022.
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
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Real solutions, those that punish those who do wrong—such as those who commit gun violence or who lie on background checks—would go a long way towards addressing the offending population.
Warmed-over policies that make criminals out of millions of gun owners will not.