Gun owners who watched President Biden’s address last night are right to be confused. While the President’s speech was full of emotional rhetoric about stopping rampage killings—a goal on which we can all agree—he presented as facts things that just aren’t true. And worse, the policy proposals he lays out wouldn’t do a darned thing to reduce injuries and deaths by criminals who use firearms.
In the nearly 4-minutes he spent talking about so-called gun violence, the President managed to fit in what the gun-control crowd wants people to believe, but are actually lies.
First, he says that gun violence has become an epidemic in America:
“I need not tell anyone this, but gun violence has become an epidemic in America. The flag at the White House was still flying at half-mast for the eight victims of the mass shooting in Georgia, when 10 more lives were taken in a mass shooting in Colorado. And in the weekend between those two events, 250 other Americans were shot dead in the streets of America. 250, shot dead. I know how hard it is to make progress on this issue.”
To be clear, an epidemic is a widespread infectious disease. So-called gun violence is not that, so let’s use words properly. The 250 people killed by criminals using firearms that weekend include gang violence deaths in cities that have the strictest gun-control laws in the country. That strict gun control has done nothing to reduce or eliminate that gang violence. It only prevents law-abiding citizens from defending themselves against those gangs.
Next, he is less than candid about what happened during the earlier so-called assault weapons ban, and about the capabilities of the firearms themselves:
“In the nineties, we passed universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that hold a hundred rounds, that can be fired off in seconds. We beat the NRA. Mass shootings and gun violence declined. Check out the report over 10 years. But in the early 2000s, the law expired. We’ve seen the daily bloodshed since. I’m not saying if the law continued, we wouldn’t see bloodshed.”
He is referring to the 1994 “Assault Weapons Ban,” which has been well documented to have had no effect on crime. And the notion that 100-round magazines can be fired off in seconds is simply not true. Fully automatic rifles, which are rarely owned by civilians and are highly regulated, fire multiple rounds with one trigger press. The President seems to be purposely trying to confuse the public. Semi-automatic rifles fire only one round per trigger pull.
He next addresses so-called ghost guns:
“More than two weeks ago in the Rose Garden, surrounded by some of the bravest people I know, the survivors and families who lost loved ones to gun violence. I laid out several of the Department of Justice actions that are being taken to impact on this epidemic. One of them is banning so-called ghost guns. These are homemade guns built from a kit that includes directions, how to finish the firearm. The parts have no serial numbers. So, they show up at crime scenes and they can’t be traced. The buyers of these ghost gun kits aren’t required to pass any background check. Anyone from a criminal or terrorist could buy this kit, and within 30 minutes have a weapon that’s lethal. But no more. I’ll do everything in my power to protect the American people from this epidemic of gun violence, but it’s time for Congress to act as well.”
First, analysts admit that these homemade firearms are not disproportionately connected to mass killings. Second, if a criminal sought to buy and make his own gun, and that method of arming himself was suddenly unavailable, does anyone think that a criminal intent on murder would not find another illegal way of obtaining the gun? Proposing solutions that will do nothing to make people safer isn’t helpful.
The President next talked about background checks:
“I don’t want to become confrontational, but we need more Senate Republicans to join the overwhelming majority of Democratic colleagues and close the loopholes that require a background check on purchases of guns. We need a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Don’t tell me it can’t be done. We did it before. And it worked. Talk to most responsible gun owners and hunters. They’ll tell you there’s no possible justification for having a hundred rounds in a weapon. What do you think deer are wearing Kevlar vests?”
He’s talking about so-called Universal Background Checks, which sound nice on their face, but it’s very misleading. Instant background checks have been federally required since 1998. These instant checks are also required for gun show and online purchases. These are not loopholes. What the President and his allies want to add is a background check on private transfers. This is the same law that has been in Colorado since 2013, and violent crime has risen significantly since then. Criminals who buy their guns on the street are not going to an FFL to obtain a background check. These laws only hurt the law-abiding who comply with the law.
Finally, he talked history and compared the Second Amendment to the First. He failed on both counts:
“And what they’ll tell you [is] that’s where too many people a day were able to buy a gun, but shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. These kinds of reasonable reforms have overwhelming support from the American people, including many gun owners. The country supports reform and Congress should act. This shouldn’t be a red or blue issue and no amendment to the Constitution is absolute. You can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. From the very beginning, there are certain guns, weapons that could not be owned by Americans. Certain people could not own those weapons ever. We’re not changing the Constitution. We’re being reasonable. I think this is not a Democrat or Republican issue. I think it’s an American issue.”
There are already restrictions on who can’t own certain weapons, and there have been historically. Felons and those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill cannot lawfully own firearms, in addition to those in several other categories such as those who have renounced their citizenship and who have been dishonorably discharged from the US military. And yes, Mr. President, you can yell fire in a crowded theater. Please stop saying this.
There are many in the pro-gun rights community who would be happy to sit down with the President’s administration and speechwriters to help fact-check his speeches ahead of his giving them. But he likely doesn’t have concerns about whether or not his speeches on gun control are accurate. He is perhaps focused solely on the gun control community that spent a lot of money getting him elected.