Why Biden's Advocacy of Gun Control Laws Could Make Dems Pay Political Price
US President Joe Biden on Thursday urged Congress to either ban assault weapons or raise the age to purchase those guns from 18 to 21. He also called for expanding background checks and "red flag" laws, which would allow courts to remove arms from those believed to be a danger to themselves or others.
Speaking at the East Room of the White House on 2 June, President Biden called upon American lawmakers to take measures to curb violence in the country and pass gun control laws in the wake of the three mass shootings in New York, Texas and Oklahoma in the last three weeks.
"We spent hours with hundreds of family members who were broken, whose lives will never be the same," Biden said. "They had one message for all of us. Do something. Just do something. For God's sake, do something."
Earlier, the president addressed the proponents of the Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms, arguing that it "is not absolute."
"Strictly speaking, President Biden is correct that no constitutional right is 'absolute,' but rights protected by the Constitution are still sweeping and fundamental to our way of life, and thus the Supreme Court will not allow those rights to be abridged without very good cause," says Dr. Nicholas Waddy, political analyst and Associate Professor of History at SUNY Alfred.
"There is also no question that tens of millions of Americans regard almost any attempt to regulate gun rights as part of a cynical campaign to disarm the citizenry and empower big government to do as it pleases. The Democrats will therefore pay a political price for reviving their tired old anti-gun agenda."
There are certain flaws in Biden and Democrats' approach, according to Waddy.
First, the majority of Americans suffering gun-related violence are killed by handguns, not "assault weapons." Second, age discrimination is also not the answer to the problem of mass shootings, insists the political analyst. "At least the Democrats are consistent: they support racial, gender, and age discrimination when it suits them," he argues.
Enacting gun control "has long been an obsession of most Democrats and leftists," hence they routinely use gun violence news to blame guns, gun owners, or gun manufacturers, according to Waddy.
"This makes little sense, however, and Americans know that we have always been a gun-friendly nation, but we have not always had the same problems with alienation, mental illness, and sociopathy," the analyst highlights.
"There is also zero evidence that strict gun control laws in blue states and blue cities have been effective in curbing either ordinary gun violence or mass shootings. The reality is simple: America is awash in guns, and Americans are angrier, more selfish, and less inhibited by moral qualms than they have ever been. That is a recipe for disaster, unfortunately. Passing gun control laws has never been the solution, and it isn't now
'Gun Control Laws Could Help'
Gun control advocates, however, draw attention to the fact that assault weapons, like the very popular AR-15, have been used in many of the recent mass shootings.
"Limiting access to these guns may save lives in the long term," argues Christopher Herrmann, an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. "Typically, about 2% - 3% of the gun murders in the USA occur in a mass shooting and the assault weapons were designed to shoot more bullets and more fatal bullets, with larger capacity magazines."
He further argues that "red flag" laws "can be helpful when mental health issues from potential shooters are known before the shooting incident(s) occur."
"Red flag laws are one type of proposal that has support from both Republicans and Democrats," suggests Robert Spitzer, a government and politics professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland who studies gun policy. "Research has shown them to be effective."
Spitzer also believes that even though an assault weapons ban, requiring background checks, and raising the age to purchase assault weapons is no panacea, "they would help in the effort to reduce gun violence."
20 February 2021, 04:35 GMT
GOP Not Ready to Implement New Gun Control Laws
The major problem on Biden's path to implementing gun restrictions is overcoming political resistance to new gun laws, admits Spitzer. While the Democrats are now rushing to push gun control bills, Republicans don't demonstrate much enthusiasm.
"Republicans are predictably divided on the issue of gun control, but the faction opposing it is far more motivated and passionate, so no Republican office holder should support Biden's gun-grabbing agenda lightly," says Waddy.
"The Republican base will punish him or her for doing so. The chances of the proposed legislation gaining passage are also low. The Democrats have pushed for similar changes on many occasions, and almost always we find that the furor over gun control dies down once the news cycle moves on. Getting the legislation through the Senate would also be extremely difficult."
But that is not all: even if the laws are passed, the nation is still awash in firearms
. For instance, around 19.8 million AR-15 style assault rifles are currently in circulation in the US, according
to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).
"We may be able to decrease or limit the number of deaths in mass shootings...but I assume the shooters would just use (more) legal handguns that would inflict similar damage/harm/death," notes Herrmann. "There are an estimated 11+ million AR-15 firearms already in circulation in the United States, so even if we stopped selling these assault-style weapons, what would happen with these previously sold/owned weapons?"
New Wave of Criticism Against Biden
The president's call for tightening gun control laws has prompted a wave of criticism among US conservatives and most GOP politicians, with some going after the Biden family.
Kevin D. Williamson, a fellow at National Review Institute, argued
in his latest op-ed that the president's initiative makes little if any sense given how Joe Biden's son does not abide by gun control regulations.
While Biden’s presidential campaign boasted that "in 1993, he shepherded through Congress the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which established background checks," his son Hunter Biden de facto violated the law in 2018, according to the scholar.
The bizarre situation was described
by Politico on 25 March 2021: first, Hunter lied while filling out the required BATFE Form 4473 when he claimed that he had never been "addicted to marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance"; second, the younger Biden lost his .38 caliber revolver, with Secret Service officers then trying to hide his ownership of the missing weapon (which was later found in a trash bin).
"I’ll believe Democrats are serious about gun crime when Hunter Biden is charged for his gun crime," insisted
Williamson in his piece for National Review.
For their part, some conservative legal experts have lambasted Biden for his notion that the Second Amendment is "not absolute," adding that even if Biden manages to have an assault weapons ban passed, the law has every chance of being overturned in court