On the third anniversary of the Parkland school mass murder, President Joe Biden released a sweeping, pie-in-the-sky plan to overhaul gun sales, law, and control.
It tries to do too much. It is a scattergun when a target rifle is required. Its 13 pages devolve into minutia. Follow the above link and you will find more than 30 boldfaced headings. Biden has to learn the modesty of underpromising and overdelivering.
There are too many for me to cover, so I will choose a few hot button issues. The first is this: Hold gun manufacturers accountable. But what does that mean? The Biden website refers to a law — the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act — that it says “protects these manufacturers from being held civilly liable for their products.” You can read about the law here.
The law was designed to counter the anti-gun crowd’s plans to sue gun manufacturers when their weapons functioned perfectly and someone was injured or killed. The gun grabbers wanted to hold gun manufacturers and sellers responsible for crimes committed with their products.
This would be akin to allowing victims of a drunk driver to sue Ford, if the drunk drove one.
The gun grabbers wanted to use legal and economic clubs to drive gun manufacturers, including American companies, out of business. Does Biden want to kill even more U.S. jobs? (A subtle reference to the Keystone XL pipeline.)
The Protection law was passed in 2005, without then-Sen. Biden’s vote.
Biden’s website says gun makers and sellers are immune from civil lawsuits. They are, but that is incomplete. They are not protected from criminal lawsuits and the law itself excludes protection if the gun maker or seller knowingly violated the law.
If it could be proven, for example, a manufacturer engaged in illegal sales of guns, it would be held accountable. Manufacturers would also be held liable if their products harmed someone as a result of malfunction.
That’s as it should be. Accountability.
There are a few other exceptions to the law, protecting citizens. Why Biden lists this as a priority is a mystery.
It is a loser.
You have to skip all the way down to #8 to get to a probable winner: Require background checks for all gun sales.
Why do I say it is a winner? Because a vast majority of Americans, including gun owners, favor it. A 2019 Fox News poll reported 90% of Americans favored universal background checks. That poll was done about a week after mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, but that finding has been consistent in recent years. Even a majority of present and former NRA members favor it.
So why don’t we get it?
In 2013, Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin offered a bipartisan bill to require background checks on all commercial sales of guns. It needed 60 votes, but got only 54 out of 100. This was a year after the Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 children and six adults died. The failure to pass this modest law was a disgraceful failure.
The two senators tried again in 2019, pushing legislation that would expand background checks to include most private transactions.
It failed again.
Why do I say it will be a winner now?
Have you heard the NRA, because of alleged lavish spending by its top officers, filed for bankruptcy last year? It has.
And is under fire by the New York state attorney general.
Taken together, the biggest gun lobby might be firing blanks with threats against lawmakers who defy its opposition to every gun law ever introduced, including ones it supported in the past.
This is the moment for the administration to launch a grassroots push in all 50 states to get something done that 90% of Americans want. I can’t think of anything that 90% of Americans want. Not even sex.
So that’s a winner.
Here’s another misfire — banning “assault weapons.”
There are a couple of reasons it is a loser:
1- It was done before. So-called “assault weapons” were banned for a decade starting in 1994. A minor decline in gun homicides was noted in one study.
2- The so-called “assault weapons” (which have never been accurately defined) are responsible for a piddling 3% of gun homicides. Two-thirds of all gun homicides are by pistol. So even if you ban all rifles, you have barely put a dent in the problem. Unless you want to make the cases that all pistols are “weapons of war.”
An “assault weapon” would cover the AR-15, America’s favorite rifle owned by 5-10 million. Would President Biden try to confiscate them by force? Too dangerous.
Biden fantasizes about a government buy back program, like local police departments use. Most take handfuls of junk firearms off the street. It’s like you have a problem with teenagers drag racing and you buy back trikes.
Biden has dozens of other proposals — some realistic, others not — but pursuing them would scatter the effort.
The most effective way of to keep guns out of the wrong hands — criminals, terrorists, mental patients — is through the universal background check.
That ought to be the Biden bullseye.