Some are already claiming the election was a disappointment to those who oppose Joe Biden’s signature brand of authoritarianism and obfuscation. That’s a judgment history will have to make later. But what is clear to me now is that many pro-gun Americans did their duty and strove, honorably and effectively, to uphold our essential freedoms.
There will be time for analysis and lessons learned after the final tallies are known. Meanwhile, you have my thanks for your unwavering efforts. And you have my pledge that, whatever the balance of power looks like in 2023, your NRA will continue to lead the fight to protect the right to keep and bear arms, be it in the legislatures, the courts, the arena of public opinion or wherever else the battle is joined.
Biden’s big gambit going into the election was to ratchet up fear and animosity against his political opponents. He tried to portray conservatives—and particularly supporters of individual, constitutional rights—as angry extremists. For a candidate who had attempted during his own election to paint himself as a unifier and a moderate, this was especially hypocritical and dishonest.
For gun owners in particular, the Biden administration has been a series of ongoing provocations. Biden campaigned on the most extreme anti-gun platform of the modern era. He pledged to: ban America’s most popular firearms; ban common magazines used in defensive firearms; force Americans to surrender or register and pay punitive taxes on any such items they already owned; subject gun companies to ruinous litigation; and criminalize private firearm transfers. And those were just the lowlights.
Only the Senate filibuster and some moderately pro-gun Democrats in both chambers of Congress have curbed Biden’s most radical plans, now that he occupies the White House. But he has still managed to inflict serious damage on law-abiding gun owners and firearm companies, even as violent crime has spiraled out of control on his watch.
Biden has made anti-gun appointments wherever he could, including to the federal bench, administrative departments and agencies, and in his own cabinet and inner circle of advisors. He even chose a bought-and-paid-for gun-control executive in David Chipman as his original choice to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). He failed in that effort, thanks in no small part to relentless lobbying and reporting on the candidate by your NRA and the hard work of all gun owners, and especially NRA members just like you. But his alternate, Steven Dettelbach, is presiding over the worst ATF crackdown on law-abiding gun owners and businesses since the Clinton era. Revocations and denials of Federal Firearm Licenses (FFLs) have increased exponentially, including for harmless and unintentional paperwork errors. Armed ATF agents have visited the homes of gun owners to interrogate them over lawful firearm and accessory purchases. The agency published a sweeping new rule reimagining the statutorily-defined term “firearm” to expand its own authority and to suppress the age-old practice of making one’s own guns. Another rulemaking is pending that would legally reclassify millions of lawfully-acquired, brace-equipped pistols. And ATF unilaterally changed its interpretation of what counts as a “silencer” and a “machinegun” to deny applications for making or transfers, and to legally recategorize aftermarket accessories.
Biden also signed into law a sweeping anti-gun package that even gun-control activists admitted exceeded their hopes and expectations. The law: lowers the threshold for needling an FFL (even as the administration cracks down on FFLs); funds state “red-flag” regimes with federal dollars; imposes a de facto waiting period for young adults who wish to lawfully purchase rifles and shotguns; and creates new classes of prohibited persons, including for misdemeanor and juvenile offenses. Merrick Garland’s Justice Dept. has wasted no time in stretching these authorities as far as it can to suppress lawful gun ownership.
And with control of Congress still up in the air, President Biden, on the day after the election, said, “I’m going to ban assault weapons [his term for ordinary and overwhelmingly popular semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15], or try like the devil.”
So much for unity. So much for reaching across the aisle. So much for moderation. Biden wants to ban the most popular centerfire rifles in America, guns used in only a small fraction of firearm-related crime, just because he thinks he can.
Readers of these pages are likely now growing tired of the number of times I’ve stressed the importance of taking back the House of Representatives as a check on a thus-far-unchecked executive. While total counts are not complete, it now looks likely that 118th Congress will have a pro-gun majority in the House. If this holds true, it will be a huge win for gun owners. The House Judiciary Committee can conduct oversight hearings to examine how Biden’s ATF and FBI have treated gun owners and federal firearm licensees. The House also controls agency budgets, and can put pressure on these rogue law-enforcement agencies to refocus them on targeting violent criminals while respecting the rights of law-abiding Americans.
But, whatever happens with the outcome of this election, the NRA, NRA members, and Second Amendment supporters must stay focused and involved. Our participation in this election, as ever, proved critical to securing pro-freedom victories.
Your NRA released targeted ads exposing anti-gun candidates in the crucial battleground races across the country. These ads are researched, developed and refined throughout the entire election cycle by NRA staff to ensure that we deliver the most effective pro-gun message to voters in the states where we could have the biggest impact. NRA staff, volunteers and representatives knocked on nearly one million doors, delivered five million pieces of mail and sent more than 14 million text messages to get out the pro-gun vote. These types of voter contacts are critical for ensuring that pro-gun voters “turn out” on or before election day. In the crucial battleground states that determine control of Congress, NRA personnel were on the ground conducting two-day grassroots seminars and townhall meetings to help our members organize, and to inform the public where the candidates really stand on the Second Amendment. We had campaign field organizers in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin, working shoulder-to-shoulder with legions of NRA members and volunteers who did the anonymous, unglamorous, but absolutely indispensable, work of an effective campaign ground game. The NRA’s official journals and websites published detailed accounts on where the candidates stood on firearm-related issues and what was at stake in each jurisdiction. Our staff completed the herculean task of grading the thousands of candidates on their Second Amendment records. These grades, available at nrapvf.org, reached millions of voters, helping them navigate the opposition’s soundbites and propaganda.
This was an operation that only an organization with the NRA’s size, membership, infrastructure, experience and know-how could manage effectively. And manage effectively we did, thanks to your participation and support.
The right to keep and bear arms was, effectively, on the ballot this cycle—sometimes literally. Iowans passed armor-plated protection for gun rights in their state constitution by a commanding two-thirds share of the vote. Unfortunately, a ballot measure in Oregon to enact sweeping gun controls, which was bankrolled by billionaires and national anti-gun groups, appears to have narrowly passed. It’s a good reminder that every pro-gun vote counts, even in a state where many believed a gun-control initiative would easily cruise to victory.
Candidates whose brands depended especially heavily on being anti-gun have not fared very well so far. Arch anti-gunner Beto “Hell, Yes, We’re Going to Take Your AR-15” O’Rourke lost the Texas governor’s race to proudly pro-gun Republican Greg Abbott by 11 points! And Stacey Abrams (D), a darling of the gun-control movement who touted her independence from the NRA as a Georgia legislator, lost in the Georgia governor’s race to NRA A+ rated Brian Kemp (R) by more than 7.5%. In Ohio, U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan lamely and unconvincingly tried to up his pro-gun bona fides by shooting a handgun in a campaign commercial and by lamely insisting his marksmanship was “not bad for a Democrat.” Ohio voters thought otherwise, and elected his NRA-endorsed opponent, J.D. Vance (R), by a margin of more than 6.5%. Perhaps the most stunning victory in any race belonged to NRA-endorsed Ron DeSantis (R) in the Florida governor’s race, who beat anti-gun turncoat Charlie Crist (D) by a stupefying margin of more than 19%!
These wins in gubernatorial races are even more important, given that national gun-control groups made clear that it was their mission this cycle to defeat sitting governors who signed NRA-backed constitutional carry. Yet, not a single current governor who signed such a bill was defeated. In fact, the majority of these governors were re-elected by double digits.
For ILA, we now begin the work of turning electoral victories into legislative wins and defending against any further restrictions on our rights where election results came up short. None of this would have been possible without your help and support. And for that, I am forever grateful.