Adjust your gun sights, Pres. Biden

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.

Shooter takes aim with “assault weapon” (Photo: N.Y. Amsterdam News)

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?

The NRA.

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.

11 thoughts on “Adjust your gun sights, Pres. Biden”

    for you Christians, today is Ash Wednesday . Show your faith.
    Stu, mu pallie,
    You have written several columns on this subject and still, “they” are not listening to you . We with some brains, common sense and moral convictions, know and understand the problem And as you have pointed out – time and time again – we have the solutions.
    1) Universal background checks. I would go so far as to include private sale or transfer of the family arsenal. The laws
    state to state are all over the place. From weak to extraordinary. When my father died, the guns were passed
    through the family. Where are they now ?
    2) Use the laws that we have. Too often, too many criminals get guns too easily. There are penalties for such crimes,
    but as long as we have people like “let them loose Larry”, what good are the laws ?!?
    We all know that the problem isn’t the gun owner. The problem is the people that want those guns.

  2. It only took 35 minutes for me to purchase a handgun this past summer, after waiting outside in line for over an hour in the sweltering heat and humidity. They just needed my drivers license and I filled out a form regarding any criminal activity. I had the choice to buy any gun in the shop but I chose a S&W 9mm. The lines continued waiting outside throughout the summer as I passed by several gun shops in the northeast.

    I 100% agree there should be a more extensive background check with a REASONABLE waiting period, say 7 days to allow a more aggressive criminal check including domestic violence. I am a proud member of the N.R.A. They may disagree with me on my opinion but it is what it is.

    A few days after I purchased my gun I went to a shooting range on Spring Garden Street to scope it out. Me and a friend walked up to the second floor. Not too big of a place but several lanes for target practice. I wasn’t too impress until I was watching a group of young men holding their pistols sideways and shooting, like they do in thug movies and videos. I was pleasantly surprised the management immediately asked them to leave. Why? This isn’t the way law abiding citizens act, we shoot carefully and focused on the target. This establishment gained my immediate respect that day and shows they didn’t need any laws to do the right thing.

  3. Hello Mr. Byofsky,

    Another great article.

    As you skillfully observed, (“not my”) President Biden’s (please forgive the inside joke) plan is an over-reach that will fall short. Why? Because there is little evidence that strict regulations will reduce violence. They usually serve as an inconvenience for those law-abiding firearms owners only.

    For example, New Jersey passed a gun law in June 2018 that would, among other things, ban magazines of higher than 10-round capacities. Upon passage of the law, my friend Al who lives in New Jersey called & asked if I would safely store two 14-round magazines he previously owned- knowing they were legal in Pennsylvania. Al, like many law-abiding firearms owners took the new regulation seriously even though it was an imposition. In contrast, within a few days of the new law’s passage, the mass shootings at Trenton’s Art All Night Festival occurred. One of the perpetrators had a 30-round mag- obviously unfazed by the new law. All of those involved had illegal firearms and accessories.

    Even more stringent background checks would fall short of the mark. While they might reduce a “handful” of legal gun purchases, would it really make a difference? Illegal guns are as readily available as marijuana sold on the street.

    Like you, I would favor any reasonable measures that would reduce gun violence.

    p.s.- A nod to the young man with a legal concealed carry permit who foiled the robbery/car-jacking attempt in center city recently. There was very little coverage by the woke media.

  4. Another one hit out of the park! Thousands of Fed regs, state laws and local ordinances have been passed into law since I first started paying attention in the 1960s. All alleged to be a solution to something, to the best of my recollection, none of them did much good. I doubt this will pass as is, and I suspect that no matter what gets enacted into law will have little or no effect on the carnage we are now experiencing. Not that I’m complaining, but very few things get enacted into law based solely on merit. And very few things in Washington DC happen by accident.

  5. Here is how the left is going to strangle the gun industry — legally: the federal government will use the power of taxation (“The power to tax is the power to destroy” — T. Jefferson). Just as taxes are being used to strangle the tobacco industry, so taxation ON AMMUNITION will signal the beginning of the end for the firearms industry. Imagine a tax of $5.00 (or $50.00) on each bullet. Imagine a $500 (or $5,000) tax on each firearm. When I smoked back in the 1970s I paid 75 cents for a pack of cigarettes. I believe a pack of cigarettes now costs about $6.00 or more. In some states (New York for example) cigarettes are more than $10.00 a pack. Anyway, the Left will have its way around the Second Amendment using taxation as its weapon. You heard it here first.

  6. A toe-in-the water by government proposal, at best. A 50% tax on ammo is no big deal; e.g., a 30-round box of 9mm shells costs around $22.00. A 50% tax would raise that to $33.00 — no problem for a real gun lover. But at $5.00 A CARTRIDGE, the tax would be $150.00 — a real disincentive. But the Left is cunning, and would do what the HB proposes: start low, then ratchet up the pain. Final question, how will the SCOTUS address the issue? If I were a leftist I would argue the 2nd Amendment addresses the issue of ARMS, not of ammunition for the arms, a technicality, but that’s why lawyers make so much money and are held in such ill repute. I’ll end with a lawyer joke: what’s difference between a lawyer and a carp? One is a scum-sucking bottom feeder and the other is a fish.

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