The U.S. Congress is at a Tipping Point

Voters need to push our legislative bodies toward freedom this November.

by
posted on August 29, 2022
Capital

President Joe Biden’s (D) gun-control agenda could not be any clearer. Biden constantly makes sure to repeat the same lies, to share the same historical fictions and to offer up the same proposals he has for decades.

Among the president’s many wishes are to extend federal background checks to all firearms transfers—even to private transfers between people within the same state; to “ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines”; to give Americans who own whatever he decides count as “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines” a choice between registering them “under the National Firearms Act” and selling them to the federal government under a “buy-back” scheme; to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which he dishonestly claims “protects [gun] manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products—a protection granted to no other industry;” to close what he terms the “Charleston loophole,” but which is better described as an elementary due-process provision that protects Americans from being locked out of one of their constitutional rights in perpetuity; and, bizarrely, to limit “the number of firearms an individual may purchase per month to one.”

There is no reason to doubt that, if he had the votes, Biden would do all of this and more.

At present, the U.S. Senate filibuster helps to prevent a lot of bad ideas—including a lot of bad gun-control ideas—from becoming law at the national level. But Americans who cherish the right to keep and bear arms must not let this fact lull them into a false sense of security. Getting past a filibuster takes 60 Senate votes. Currently, there are 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats in the Senate. And yet, as they made abundantly clear during the last year, 48 of the 50 Democrats currently serving in the Senate would be happy to get rid of the filibuster if they had the votes to do so, which means that, in practice, the party just needs to add more seats in November to end the filibuster and then to implement its gun-control agenda.

This is not a theoretical point. As The Washington Post reported in early June, “if Democrats can pick up at least two seats in November, the party could have the votes needed to end the filibuster and pass legislative priorities, such as universal background checks for gun purchasers.”

In Wisconsin, as this was going to print, all three Democrat candidates for Senate—Mandela Barnes, Alex Lasry and Sarah Godlewski—vowed to nix the filibuster. Barnes, who hopes to pass “universal background checks,” to prohibit “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines, to make it illegal to manufacture firearms at home and to repeal the PLCAA, said he “will never let archaic Senate procedure stand in the way” of those aims. Lasry, who has the same aims as Barnes, but would add a federal waiting period into the mix, has sworn to “eliminate the filibuster” if elected. Godlewski, who wants to implement federal “comprehensive background checks, red-flag laws and a ban on high-capacity magazines,” not only promises to kill the filibuster, but insists that “it is hard to be a Democrat running and not be for getting rid of the filibuster.”

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Senate candidate John Fetterman hopes to abolish the filibuster in order to pass “universal-background checks,” to ban what he calls “military-grade assault weapons and high-capacity magazines” and to “throw out the PLCAA.”

President Joe BidenIn Ohio, Democrat Senate candidate Tim Ryan complains that gun control is being “held hostage by the filibuster.” In Kentucky, Democrat Senate candidate Charles Booker likes to cast himself as “a very strong proponent of getting rid of the filibuster so we can deliver results for the American people, and that includes gun safety,” by which he means “mandatory universal background checks for all gun purchases” and laws that “ensure that weapons of war are not used to devastate neighborhoods.”

To adapt a famous phrase a little: When people tell you what they want to do, believe them. In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has taken to saying that “no amendment is absolute,” as if that gives the federal government carte blanche to do whatever it wants with your rights.

In the House, meanwhile, gun-control advocates have somehow become even more dismissive than Sen. Schumer. During a debate with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in May, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) dismissed any concerns about the integrity of the U.S. Bill of Rights by exclaiming, in exasperation, “spare me the bulls--t about constitutional rights.”

Inherent in Schumer’s insistence that “rights aren’t absolute,” Cicilline’s talk of “bulls--t,” and President Biden’s endless entreaties to “c’mon man,” is the belief that what they are proposing is just good, old-fashioned “common sense.” But this could not be further from the truth. Indeed, pretty much every provision on their agenda would have the effect of unreasonably and illegally burdening law-abiding gun-owners while doing nothing of consequence about crime.

What Biden incorrectly casts as exotic “weapons of war” are, in reality, the most-commonly owned types of rifle in the United States. There are more than 20 million AR-style firearms in America—rendering the design self-evidently protected under D.C. v. Heller’s (2008) “in-common-use” standard—and those guns are used so infrequently in murders that the federal government does not even bother to keep statistics. The closest set of data that the FBI does record is for “all rifles,” which are used in around 3% of American homicides—fewer than are committed with “hands and feet.” To put it as simply as possible: there is no way of prohibiting Americans from buying the most-popular rifle in America or of forcing them to sell those rifles to the government, or to require registering them with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for a fee, without gutting the Second Amendment.

supporterSo-called “universal background checks” must also be kept at bay. Structurally, there are a host of problems with this idea; among which are that it would exceed the federal government’s constitutional authority, that it would permit Washington, D.C., to superintend all private transfers (including loaning a friend a gun) and that there would be no way to achieve such a system without implementing a de facto national gun registry.

Beyond that, there’s the fact that such a scheme is entirely non-responsive to the problems at hand. Criminals, by definition, do not obey the law. Gang members and the mentally ill rarely obtain guns from responsible parties. Mass murderers almost never have a record to intercept. Ultimately, the gun-control movement’s obsession with the background-check system is a distraction from the real problem, which is the chronic failure of America’s prosecutors to enforce the laws that are already on the books (especially the laws against felony possession and straw purchasing) and to lock up the repeat offenders who are guilty of nearly all the crime in the United States. No doubt it is easier to go after the people who have not committed—and will never commit—any crimes. But it doesn’t make anyone safer.

And then there is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), with which President Biden and Hillary Clinton have become obsessed. If it seems rather suspicious that the loudest voices within the gun-control movement are so determined to remove from the statute books a law that prevents frivolous plaintiffs from recruiting rogue judges to do what America’s lawmakers will not, well … it is, indeed, rather suspicious. 

Really, this one doesn’t require much thought. The reason Biden, Clinton and others want to get rid of the PLCAA is that Biden, Clinton and others wish to destroy America’s lawful commerce in arms. When discussing this issue, President Biden likes to pretend that his real concern is that the firearms industry cannot be sued if its products malfunction. But that, of course, is nonsense. The PLCAA does not protect gun manufacturers from the consequences of manufacturing defects or from routine business malpractice; it protects gun manufacturers if their properly functioning products are used for evil ends. It is the most commonsensical of laws, and if there is any problem with it at all, it is that the behavior of disreputable activists made it necessary in the first place.

Naturally, if anti-Second Amendment politicians were to get a majority, they would not stop with this trio of proposals. In such a case, we would see the imposition of all manner of restrictions on the purchase of firearms, including waiting periods and one-gun-per-month rules; and we would see as many increases in fees and taxes and licenses as the budget process could bear.

And, of course, if those goals are achieved, the push for the next round of regulations would start immediately. Every compromise that was arrived at during the previous legislative push would instantly become a “loophole.” Every gun that had been banned or regulated or confiscated would be used to make the case for the next tranche (“well, we already ban … ”). Any indication that the new rules weren’t working would be cast as evidence that they hadn’t gone far enough. At a stroke, the hard-won victories of the last 30 years would be wiped out.

Equally alarming is the prospect of a Senate that is capable of stacking the courts with judges who are hostile to the right to keep and bear arms. Despite its entirely obvious meaning, many within the gun-control movement continue to push the idea that, uniquely within the U.S. Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to join state-run militias from which the federal government may exclude them. Disgracefully, this view is still echoed by a good number of nominees to the judicial branch—especially to the lower courts, where many of the most-important firearms cases are initially heard. Since he was sworn in last January, President Biden has been adding new judges at a remarkable pace. If they wish to slow this process down—and to block its worst excesses—Americans must use their votes in November to alter the makeup of the U.S. Senate.

The restoration of the right to keep and bear arms has been one of the most-important developments of the last three decades. Justice Clarence Thomas was correct when he lamented that the Second Amendment has too often been treated as a “second class right.” 

But, outside of those courts, in the town halls and state legislatures and voting booths of America, it has been a different story. There, Americans have repeatedly made it clear to their elected officials what they will and will not tolerate. Time after time, the prospect of stricter gun control has been raised, and time after time it has been voted down. In November of 2022, it will be time to send that message once again. 

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