The candidates now running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president had plenty to say about your right to bear arms in their first debate.
On two successive nights in June, a total of 20 Democratic presidential candidates crowded a stage in Miami: 10 one night and 10 the next. They had plenty to say about your right to bear arms. A few candidates pushed for national confiscation of popular semi-automatic rifles, though they preferred the friendlier-sounding phrase “gun buybacks.” Some candidates didn’t stop with more restrictions and bans they want you to live by, but also focused their attacks on gun makers. Former Vice President Joe Biden even said the firearms industry is the “enemy.”
There will likely be a stark contrast between whomever the Democrat candidate is and President Donald J. Trump when it comes to Second Amendment-protected rights; in fact, this issue could very well determine the outcome of the election and the future of our freedom and of America’s firearms industry.
Many of these candidates, for example, advocate a repeal of The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a federal law that protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for criminal misuse of their products. These politicians want to be able to sue gun makers out of business if, say, a person uses a legally made and sold firearm in a crime. This would be like making the Hillerich & Bradsby Co. pay up big time after a criminal used a legally made and sold Louisville Slugger to harm someone. This should be the very definition of “frivolous lawsuit,” but this is how these politicians want to use the legal system.
As we don’t at this early stage know who will win the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, here’s a breakdown of what some leading candidates said about your right to bear arms. (Notice that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) isn’t on this list. He dropped out in early July after making banning and confiscating popular semi-automatic rifles—and jailing any gun owner who wouldn’t comply—his main talking point.)
At the debate, Biden said, “Last thing, we should have smart guns. No gun should be able to be sold unless your biometric measure can pull that trigger. It’s within our right to do that, we can do that, our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA.” Biden also said he would have the federal government confiscate millions of popular semi-automatic rifles from the public. He would also, if he could, require that all firearms sold be equipped with some sort of so-called “smart-gun” technology—this is nothing less than a total gun ban on all reliable guns currently available.
NBC’s debate moderator Chuck Todd asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), “What do you do about the hundreds of millions of guns already out there and does the federal government have to play a role in dealing with it?” Warren answered, “Gun violence is a national health emergency in this country and we need to treat it like that.” Warren also advocated for universal background checks, a new ban on so-called “assault weapons” and increased research (see “The Coming Wave of Anti-Gun Research,” p. 28, to see what this portends).
When he got his moment at the debate, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said, “I hear gunshots in my neighborhood. I think I’m the only one—I hope I am the only one on this panel here—that had seven people shot in their neighborhood just last week.” He then used this likely gang-related use of illegal guns as an excuse to burden law-abiding Americans with a national gun-licensing program that would require gun owners to meet training standards before they can enjoy their Second Amendment-protected rights. He said this even though he has said before that he is aware almost all the murders he is referring to are done by criminals with illegal guns.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), meanwhile, claimed a forced gun “buyback” scheme to confiscate the more than 16 million privately owned, semi-automatic rifles Americans now own isn’t actually a confiscation as long as the government makes an “offer.”
Former U.S. Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (D-Texas) called popular semi-automatic rifles “weapons of war” that “belong on the battlefield and not in our communities.” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) followed O’Rourke’s weapons-of-war theme, but didn’t reiterate her previous support for a new “assault-weapons ban.” Mayor Pete Buttegieg (D-Ind.) said guns, and presumably gun rights, are to blame for the crime problems that exist in America.
The audience actually laughed when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called a direct quote from him (“everything being equal, states should make those decisions”) that was read by a debate moderator “a mischaracterization.” Sanders then said, “We have a gun crisis right now. Forty thousand people a year are getting killed. In 1988, Rachel, when it wasn’t popular, I ran on a platform of banning assault weapons and, in fact, lost that race for Congress.”
The moderator didn’t call Sanders out on the disingenuous “40,000” figure. Sanders summed up his views by saying, “We end the gun show loophole … and I believed in 1988 and believe today. Assault weapons are weapons from the military and that they should not be on the streets of America. We ban the sale and distribution and that’s what I’ve believed for many years.”
In the debate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) once again said she’d use executive orders if Congress didn’t pass new gun-control legislation within her first 100 days in office to force various gun-control policies on law-abiding Americans.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said crimes committed with firearms were the fault of “greed” by the NRA and gun manufacturers. That has been one of her talking points, even though in 2008 she sent a letter praising the NRA for “the work that the NRA does to protect gun owners rights… .”