Biden’s Search For A Coherent Gun-Control Message

posted on August 22, 2023
Randy Kozuch

Last June, the gun-prohibition lobby Giffords released the results of a poll they commissioned that supposedly substantiates voters in swing states support gun control and their increased support for Joe Biden when they hear about his efforts in that area. The poll highlighted the so-called Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), which Biden signed into law in 2023. But it also found only 44% of battleground voters “have heard anything about” the BSCA. A follow-up article in Politico, “Biden’s Unexpected Gun Control Problem,” suggested that the BSCA could help get Biden re-elected, if only he could make voters aware of it.

But Biden’s real gun-control “problem” isn’t that his “successes” in this area are under-appreciated. It’s that they’re not really successful. And the only way for him to get what he wants—ever-more-draconian gun control—is to ratchet up fear of terrible but thankfully rare events. Thus, Biden finds himself stuck between two competing (and deceptive) narratives: that he is successfully confronting “gun violence” and that “mass shootings” are so common that gun bans are necessary. Whether or not Biden ultimately focuses on the BSCA in his re-election efforts, it’s important that gun owners know the facts so they can counter Biden’s malarkey messaging with the truth.

Biden’s gun-control “achievements” are only appreciated if they are fabricated or distorted to mislead the public.

Advocacy organizations like Giffords use polling as a form of marketing, not as a scientific search for unknown information. As one political pollster infamously noted, the point is to phrase questions to “get the right answer” for your clients. Thus, rather than describe the BSCA accurately, the Giffords-backed poll focused on making it seem more appealing and groundbreaking than it actually was.

Respondents to the poll, for example, were told the BSCA made “gun trafficking a federal crime,” which unsurprisingly elicited a 90% positive response. But describing the law this way creates the false impression that criminal penalties for firearm traffickers somehow represent a new development.

In fact, every act necessary to commit illicit firearms trafficking was outlawed by the Gun Control Act of 1968. This includes: unlicensed dealing; privately transferring guns interstate; transferring guns knowing they will be used to commit certain crimes; smuggling or attempting to smuggle guns to promote certain crimes; transferring guns to prohibited persons; etc., etc. Longstanding provisions of law also enable the government to initiate forfeiture proceedings against property gained from or used to commit these crimes.

The BSCA’s “trafficking” provisions simply expanded upon these existing authorities. It created yet more legal authority to fine “firearm traffickers” and more ways to seek forfeiture of property, plus added to the list of crimes for which firearms may not be transferred or smuggled. It basically just piled more gun control on top of existing, underutilized gun control.

The poll used a similar sleight of hand in describing the BSCA as “[m]aking straw purchasing a federal crime,” which elicited 86% approval. Yes, the BSCA created new offenses for buying a firearm on behalf of a person who is prohibited from having it, who intends to use it for certain criminal purposes, or who intends to dispose of the firearm to another such a person.

But the significance of these provisions dims when it’s understood it was already a felony to buy a gun without truthfully disclosing who the “actual buyer” really is, whether or not that buyer is a prohibited person or wants the gun for a nefarious purpose. In other words, a broader legal tool was already available to target “straw purchasers” before enactment of the BSCA.

Moreover, when the NRA in 2013 pressed then-Vice President Biden on why this tool wasn’t used more often, he dismissed the idea as not worth the “time or manpower.” According to the government’s own research, straw purchases were the method of firearm acquisition for about 25% of firearms used in crimes. Biden’s claim it’s a waste of time for the federal government, which can hardly be said to have a “manpower” problem, to focus on straw purchasers proves that he has no interest in actually reducing firearm crime.

His real goal is just to punish law-abiding gun owners.

Giffords may wish to claim that Joe Biden’s “gun-control problem” is that his “gun-safety” achievements are under-appreciated. But their own polling shows that these “achievements” are only appreciated if they are fabricated or distorted to mislead the public.


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