Well, here we go again. Once more, the fight is on to protect the Second Amendment. This issue will go to print before the litigation is finished, so this could certainly change, but as it stands, it seems as if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be the next president and vice president of the United States. Once inaugurated, they will begin a concerted attack on the rights of American gun owners. We must be ready for the onslaught.
In spite of the dire predictions, the results of November’s election were incredibly close. In Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania, President Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden are (at the time of this writing) haggling over what is, in the grand scheme of things, a mere handful of votes. As it stands, the U.S. Senate is currently 50-48 in the Republicans’ favor, with two runoffs to be held in Georgia in January. And in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Democrats will enjoy the slimmest House majority in 20 years-and the slimmest Democrat House majority since WWII. This is going to matter insofar as it helps to stall the most-radical ideas the Democrat Party has been promising. But it is not going to dissuade it from trying. Within hours of the press calling the race, Joe Biden was claiming a “mandate” for change. That “change” will undoubtedly include a big attempt to limit the right to keep and bear arms.
It is worth reiterating just how radical the Biden-Harris gun-control agenda is. If they get their way, they will ban and confiscate the most-commonly owned rifle in the United States; they will prohibit the magazines that come as standard in almost every newly purchased semi-automatic firearm; they will use the federal government to regulate intrastate private transfers (or even loans); they will open up the courts to frivolous suits with the hope that they might achieve, through “lawfare,” what they cannot through legislation; they will arbitrarily limit the number of guns that can be bought per month; they will ban the online sale of ammunition and firearm parts and accessories; they will declare Americans who are unable to manage their finances to be “mentally ill” and thus barred from owning guns; and, eventually, they will move toward the mandatory adoption of a “smart-gun” technology that does not, in fact, exist. There is a reason that, as election day neared, Biden and Harris both did not talk about gun-control: They were aware that it had the potential to cost them the election.
Now that they have likely gained power, they are sure to be less coy. In 2020, it became more obvious than it had ever been: When hoping to advance its message, the Democrat Party can count upon the media, the universities, Silicon Valley, a lot of large corporations and a swathe of professional sports to help. In 2020, it also became more obvious than it had ever been that it is possible to stand up to this behemoth and, often, to circumvent it. Naturally, it will be imperative that advocates of the right to keep and bear arms work to do just that—as they have before. But it will be especially important for them to bring into the movement the millions upon millions of Americans who became first-time gun owners this year. The events of this summer made it clear to a huge number of people exactly why the Second Amendment is so important. Our task going forward is to make sure those same people understand how, and why, the right is under threat.
And make no mistake: It is under threat. The incoming president is a man who shouted at an auto worker in Michigan when asked about a gun-control position that he had taken on live television. The incoming vice president promised during the Democrat primaries that she would “give” Congress 100 days to pass legislation that she considered sensible, and that, if it declined to do so, she would do it anyway. The incoming “gun czar,” according to Biden, is Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas whose slogan is: “Hell yes, we’re coming for your AR-15.” The incoming Speaker of the House is likely Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who recently sat on the floor of Congress in protest against the majority’s refusal to strip certain Americans of their constitutional rights, simply because they appear on secret government watch lists for unknown reasons or even bureaucratic mistakes.
Given that we seem headed for divided government, the biggest threat to the right to keep and bear arms will likely come from executive action. As Kamala Harris has made clear—just as President Obama did before her—the leadership in the contemporary Democrat Party does not regard congressional inaction as an obstacle to the enactment of its agenda. There is no provision within the Constitution that awards extra power to the president in such cases as the Senate or the House disagree with him, but we will no doubt be treated once again to the idea that if Congress won’t act, the White House will.
In pushing back against such overreach, defenders of the Second Amendment will have two key tools at their disposal. The first tool is the judiciary, which, thanks to the relentless work of President Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is now stocked with hundreds of judges who are committed to the idea that words mean what they mean rather than what political radicals would like them to mean.
The second tool is the Administrative Procedures Act, which slows down any substantive bureaucratic alterations to the law and subjects those changes to an extended period of public feedback. During the second Obama administration, gun owners regularly used this feedback to make themselves heard, and, most notably, stopped a proposal that would have prohibited commonly owned ammunition. It will be vital for gun owners to stay as engaged this time around. Executive rule-making is easier when the citizenry is not paying attention.
In Congress, attempts to impose stricter gun control will be more obvious to the naked eye. Though they will dress them up in euphemisms, the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed bans on commonly owned rifles and standard-issue magazines will be clear for what they are. So, too, will be attempts to regulate the private transfer of firearms, drive gun manufacturers out of business and prohibit the online sale of ammunition.
But some of the wolves will come in sheep’s clothing. The Biden-Harris campaign has made it clear that they hope to bribe the states to adopt gun-control policies which, absent an influx of cash, they would never otherwise consider. Without doubt, this aim is a pernicious one: in effect, the government would be taking the citizenry’s money only to send it back to them on the condition that they consent to dilute the U.S. Constitution. But the approach carries with it another risk: that instead of provoking open debate, as a more straightforward measure undoubtedly would, it would be achieved as a last-minute amendment to a must-pass spending bill, negotiated in secret in the middle of the night. Gun owners are unlikely to have to explain to Sen. McConnell and his colleagues that they will not tolerate the big-ticket items on the Biden-Harris agenda. But they will be required to demand that all such back-door schemes be regarded as non-negotiable “poison pills” that will kill any legislation to which they are attached.
There is a final risk associated with the arrival of a Biden-Harris administration, and it is one that remains even if their entire platform is repelled by Congress or the courts. The presidency comes with an enormous microphone, and, in the case of Democrat administrations, an enormous echo chamber, to boot. There seems little doubt that Biden and Harris will spend the next four years spreading misinformation about firearms and the laws they feel should be allowed to govern our right to own them.
Americans will be told there is no difference between automatic and semi-automatic firearms; that there is such a thing as an “assault weapon”; that “smart guns” are real, rather than props in a James Bond movie; that the law is full of dangerous loopholes; that gun manufacturers cannot be sued if their product malfunctions; that America suffers a mass shooting every single day; that it is easier to buy a gun than a book; and, the biggest lie of all, that the Second Amendment does not actually protect the individual right to keep and bear arms. We should not underestimate the effect that these falsehoods will have. Lies, in most cases, are preferable to bad laws. But that does not mean that they are benign. It is alarming how many people believe things about gun ownership in America that are not merely false, but that are the precise opposite of the truth. Pushing back hard against the onslaught of disinformation should be a high priority.
Although they must remain vigilant and wary—and avoid believing happy talk about the nature of November’s defeat—the good news is that when the opponents of gun control unite, they can be remarkably effective, even in circumstances considerably more dire than these. In 2019, despite controlling every element within the state government and having explicitly run on a promise to enact anti-Second Amendment legislation, Democrats in Virginia were forced to shelve some of their most draconian plans after it became clear just how extensive and motivated the opposition was. Unprepared to give in, or to consider the loss of their rights as a forgone conclusion, Virginians rallied peacefully, contacted their representatives and, in the vast majority of counties, made it clear that they would not comply with unconstitutional rules. By all accounts, the governor and his allies in the Statehouse were not prepared for such organized opposition to their agenda. Should the Biden administration take a similar road, it will be, too.
One of the stranger developments in recent political history has been that the organized opponents of the Second Amendment have come to believe their own rhetoric. Even as state after state has loosened carry rules, the number of gun owners have diversified and increased in number and Americans have gotten into a habit of buying millions of guns a year, gun-controllers have persisted in their belief that there is a secret majority out there that agrees with everything they say.
One can see this in the way that critics of the right to keep and bear arms still talk about gun owners—as eccentrics or wannabe Yosemite Sams, rather than as the guy-or gal-next door. One can see this in the way that the attorney general of New York, and others, have tried to destroy the National Rifle Association. And one can see it in the cycle of overreach and backlash that has marked gun politics for more than three decades. We have just witnessed an election in which the establishment’s preferred candidate was presumed to be much stronger and more popular than he turned out to be—based largely upon a vicious cycle in which flawed polling leads to incorrect perceptions that lead to flawed polling, and so on. Gun owners should remember this. As the extraordinary restoration of the right to keep and bear arms achieved in recent years has shown, those who wish to maintain the U.S. Bill of Rights enjoy the upper hand—providing that they show up and demand their rights. They must not be cowed into believing otherwise.