Second Amendment Questions That Should Be Asked at the Presidential Debate

posted on September 28, 2020
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Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump (R) and former Vice President Joe Biden (D) will take the stage in the first of three planned presidential debates leading up to the Nov. 3 election.

When it comes to the Second Amendment and the respective stances of Trump and Biden, their views could not be further apart.

Here are a few questions that could be asked of Biden about the Second Amendment during Tuesday’s debate to illustrate just how starkly different the two candidate’s positions are. 

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), enacted in 2005, was designed to protect the firearms industry from being held liable for the criminal misuse of its products. Yet, you want to repeal the PLCAA. You say this is “a protection granted to no other industry,” but can you name another industry against which the legal system was being used in this way? Did this happen to the auto industry because some people illegally drive while intoxicated? How about the knife industry, the baseball bat industry, the drug industry, or any other?

After all, the PLCAA is designed to protect firearms manufacturers from frivolous lawsuits designed to functionally bankrupt the industry. It does not, however, protect manufacturers or dealers if they break the law, or from normal product-liability claims. It simply stops them from being held liable if criminals misuses their products. Biden, nevertheless, believes this industry should be held liable for the acts of criminals.

Biden, when he was a U.S. Senator at the time, voted against the PLCAA in 2005, and his campaign website explicitly states that he will “prioritize repealing” the act. He even attacked then-rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earlier this year for voting in favor of the PLCAA, with Biden saying that he “will not rest until they’re able to sue the gun manufacturers.”

On the other hand, Trump has reaffirmed his defense of not only firearms owners who lawfully exercise their rights, but of the firearms industry as well. With the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering businesses across the nation, the Trump administration issued federal guidelines that deemed gun stores and ranges, as well as firearms and ammunition manufacturers, as essential, calling them “critical components of the nation’s workforce.”

It’s clear that Biden wants the American firearms industry gone, whereas Trump sees this industry as a critical, essential industry to our country.

The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban sunset over a decade-and-a-half ago. An independent study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice in 2004 determined that “we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s drop in gun violence.” Yet, you want to ban and confiscate these firearms from the millions of Americans who use them for self-defense and sport. Don’t real scientific crime studies matter, Mr. Biden?

The reality is that “assault weapon” is a politically invented term designed to portray commonly owned semi-automatic rifles, handguns and shotguns in a negative light for purely political reasons. This label entirely disregards the fact that millions of law-abiding Americans exercise their Second Amendment rights by using these firearms every single day.

Biden’s campaign website states that, not only would he ban “assault weapons,” but he would also ban “high-capacity magazines.” He also wants to create a registry for these popular semi-automatic rifles, and use government funds to “[b]uy back the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines already in our communities.” In effect, Biden supports confiscation of the most-commonly owned firearms across the nation.

In contrast, Trump has repeatedly affirmed that he believes in our constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. “Take away your guns, take away your Second Amendment,” said Trump, in reference to the Biden agenda. At a separate event, Trump said, “We will always uphold the right to self-defense, and we will always uphold the Second Amendment.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has not heard a major Second Amendment case since District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) or McDonald v. Chicago (2010). These two landmark cases affirmed the Second Amendment protects an individual right. Yet, you have stated you think the court was wrong in the Heller case. Why?

The Heller decision clearly affirmed that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, and struck down Washington D.C.’s ban on the possession of handguns and other firearms in the home for self-defense. Meanwhile, the McDonald decision struck down the city of Chicago’s absolute ban on handguns. Also, because Heller only applied to the federal government, McDonald then expanded that the Second Amendment is a restriction on state and local governments from infringing on the individual right.

Just over a year ago, Biden was asked specifically about the Heller decision, and whether or not he agreed with it. He responded, “If I were on the court I wouldn’t have made the same ruling. OK, that’s number one.” In short, he believes the decision was wrong, and that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right.

On the other hand, Trump has made immense headway ensuring the long-term protection of the Second Amendment in federal courts, with both his judicial nominations to lower courts, as well as his two appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although they have not heard a major Second Amendment case during either’s tenure on the high court, both Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch have signed dissents critical of the high court’s decision to pass on Second Amendment related cases.

Should the Second Amendment not gain a moment of airtime during Tuesday’s debate, proponents of freedom should hope that the issue comes up in the following debate on Oct. 15. A vice presidential debate will be held on Oct. 7, between Vice President Mike Pence (R) and Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). The final presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, what they intend to do with your Second Amendment rights. President Trump was correct when he recently said, “If Joe Biden gets in, your Second Amendment is gone. It’s gone–either obliterated to a point of being gone or gone itself.”

Let’s hope these debates make it clear to the American people where these candidates stand when it comes to protecting—or in the case of Biden, abolishing—your Second Amendment.


U.S. Capitol building
U.S. Capitol building

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